NBA players would probably be free to use marijuana medicinally or recreationally today if former Commissioner David Stern were still in charge. The retired executive recently came out in support of legalization in an interview with former Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington that was filmed for UNINTERRUPTED's documentary 'The Concept of Cannabis.'
"I'm now at the point where personally I think it should probably be removed from the banned list," Stern told Harrington. "I think we gotta change the collective bargaining agreement and let you do what's legal in your state. If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I would think you should be allowed to do what's legal in your state. So now I think it's up to the sports leagues to anticipate where this is going and maybe lead the way."
Stern added that he changed his mind on the subject after watching documentaries on medical marijuana. "I've been influenced by CNN. Sanjay Gupta did an entire series saying that the laws against marijuana are crazy. That particularly medical marijuana is something that should be encouraged rather than prohibited and...I think there's universal agreement for medical marijuana purposes should be completely legal."
Harrington was speaking with Stern as a cannabis advocate and entrepreneur. After retiring from professional basketball in 2015, he launched a cannabis extract company that sells oils, creams and other medicinal products. Nowadays he's comfortable telling his old boss that he broke the NBA rules, but he wasn't always so confident in his new career path.
"In the beginning I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm a drug dealer.' But now it's like I'm a businessman. It's completely flipped."
Harrington says he began using marijuana medicinally after a slew of surgeries left him taking heaps of medications.
"When I was playing for the Denver Nuggets, I had a botched knee surgery that got a staph infection. Ended up having to get four more surgeries after that just to clean the infection out. I was on all kinds of pain meds. And this lady who runs this the university, she'd seen all the medicine that I had. And she said, 'Al, have you ever tried CBD?' So she gave me a couple things to try and I immediately felt a difference."
Now he wants to make a difference in other people lives, so he's invested $3.5 million in his cannabis company Viola Extracts, named after his grandmother who was also his first, unofficial client.
"She had come to see me while I was playing for the Denver Nuggets. She was suffering from glaucoma and diabetes, so I was just messing around with her, just like, 'Grandma, you should try this medical marijuana.' She was totally against it. She was like, 'Boy, I'm not smoking no reefer.' It took me a day or so to get her to try it, and when she tried it, she had immediate relief. And at that point, I started looking at this as just medicine."
And so do the majority of athletes, according to Harrington.
"I would say probably 70 percent of athletes in all major sports smoke marijuana. I think it's that big. And not only the players. I think the coaches consume, I think the owners consume. I think in sports it's very prevalent. And it's right there. So it's about the right people coming out on it, and I guarantee it's gonna be like people using Vicodin and everything else."
And Stern thinks you can get NBA owners and fans onboard with legalization if medical marijuana could lengthen the careers of their favorite players. "Could you imagine if we could create a situation where every superstar was able to play one additional year?" he said. "And if you told the fans that if the players rubbed it on their knees they wouldn't need to take a night off, that'd settle it for them."
You hear that, Adam Silver?