Thanks in part to the NFL’s announcement it would study cannabis as a pain management tool, the intersection of marijuana and professional sports has entered the mainstream as of late. Curiosity abounds on whether the plant could be used in recovery and possibly preventing traumatic brain injuries for professional athletes.
With top-level sports leagues like the NBA and NFL still testing and punishing its players for marijuana use, despite players living in legal states and former players admitting to using cannabis, those leagues are being forced to re-examine their stance on cannabis.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was recently posed this question on an episode of the Yahoo! Sports “Posted Up” podcast. Silver emphasized that any changes made to the league’s substance policy would first have to be collectively bargained between the player’s union. But he did mention that it’s a conversation happening around the league.
“When I’ve talked to players about it, I think they have mixed feelings. It’s not so much about what guys do in the summer,” Silver said. “If they want to smoke pot, whatever, it’s legal in a lot of states. We have no issue with that.”
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He mentioned that some players worry others are smoking too much marijuana during the season. Their concern isn’t so much about play on the court — “It’s certainly not a performance-enhancing drug,” Silver said — but what’s happening off the court that drives a player to consume so much marijuana.
“One of the things I’ve been talking more about in the past several years is mental wellness of our players,” Silver said. “Some guys are smoking pot in the same way some guys would take a drink. Just using it to calm down a little bit or using it to relax, no big deal. It’s no issue, which is why I think it’s been legalized in a lot of states.
“On the other hand, there’s guys in the league who are smoking a lot of pot,” he added. “Then the question becomes, ‘Well, why are you smoking a lot of pot?’ And that’s where mental wellness comes in. Because I’ve directly talked to players who say I’m smoking a lot of pot because I have a lot of anxiety and I’m struggling.”
And while Silver did acknowledge feelings over the NBA still testing for marijuana was seen as “uncool,” he wanted more research available before making any conclusive decision. Like the NFL, the NBA is studying how the plant could be used for pain management. But the league also wants to be sure because of what possible message they’re sending to kids.
“When we change our policy we have to be really careful because we’re clearly sending a message to young people,” Silver said. “Just like with alcohol, you have to teach young people how to use a substance appropriately and responsibly so it doesn’t overwhelm your life. It’s a complicated issue.”