Like some other outdated ideas that had become the law of the land, attitudes and the legality of marijuana use are changing around the nation as younger generations come to power. Currently, 11 states have legalized recreational use, and all but three other states have done some combination of decriminalization and allowing it for medical use.
Sports, always a mirror to society (for both good and bad) is changing as well. Marijuana is no longer a banned substance in Major League Baseball. In the NHL it is technically banned but there are no punishments for use.
However, in the NBA a third positive test can lead to a suspension for five games — Michael Beasley, Nerlens Noel, Thabo Sefolosha, and J.R. Smith have been hit with that in recent years. Current players have estimated that between half and 85 percent of the players in the league use (I’d guess on the higher end of that range).
Kevin Durant thinks its time for the NBA to take pot off the banned substance list, as he said in the — not coincidentally named — “All The Smoke” podcast recently (hat tip to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News for listening to the pod and writing it up).
“We start getting people out of jail for marijuana. That’s the next step,” Durant said. “And just keep going. But it’s a plant that’s put here for a reason, and that’s to bring us together. Hopefully it happens (removing marijuana from the banned substance list), especially in the NBA.”
Durant went on to compare weed to caffeine.
“Everybody on my team drinks coffee every day. Taking caffeine every day. Or guys go out to have wine after games or have a little drink here and there. Marijuana should be in that tone,” Durant said. “Why are we even talking about? It shouldn’t even be a conversation now. So hopefully we can get past that and the stigma around it and know that it does nothing but make people have a good time, make people hungry, bring people together — that plant brings us all together.”
Just for transparency, we should note Durant is an investor in two marijuana businesses.
That doesn’t make him wrong. The NBA legal team would want to note that marijuana is currently a schedule 1 controlled substance in the United States, meaning federal law equates it to heroin or cocaine or LSD. That’s not something likely to change under the current administration. The NBA can just sit back and wait for the federal government and a few states to catch up with everyone else, make pot legal, and make it easy on them going forward.
Which is not what an actually progressive league would do.
A progressive league would follow Durant’s suggestion and take it off the banned substance list.
While today’s NBA players take fewer anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and other prescribed drugs than the players a generation ago, they are still prevalent. Marijuana use is not going to eliminate the need for those drugs, but it could reduce the need. That would need to be studied, but there’s logic to it. And anything that moves players off of those more addictive, more damaging prescribed medications is a good thing.
Durant is on the right track. It just likely will take the league a little while to catch up.