Former NBA Commissioner Says League Should Reconsider Its Ban on Marijuana

David Stern’s announcement is a reflection of changing attitudes and growing acceptance of marijuana and legalization.

Former National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner David Stern said the league’s ban on cannabis should be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement negotiation.

“I think it’s time to take a whole new look at it,” Stern recently said in an interview with CNBC at the SeventySix Capital Sport Innovation Conference in Philadelphia.

Stern, who said he believes the ban should be lifted, argued that the benefits that cannabis provides players in the league far outweigh its negatives.

The current NBA collective bargaining agreement, under which marijuana use is not allowed, was implemented in 2017 and runs until 2024.

Incumbent NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he is open to addressing the issue and implementing a change in policy on cannabis in upcoming negotiations and said that the NBA “might be behind the times.”

This is a change for him as well, since he was not open to addressing the issue in 2017.

For Stern, it’s the potential benefits that cannabis offers players that drive his support for the league lifting its ban.

“In many cases in sports,” said Stern, “the opioid crisis begins with players being prescribed pills … and if there is another substance … then I’m all for it.”

As NBA Commissioner for 30 years, Stern led the implementation of a strict drug testing policy whereby players are randomly tested four times a year. He retired from his position with the NBA in 2014.

Stern said during his time as Commissioner, the players were vocal in their support of the ban because they felt that it would hurt the performance of their teammates on the court if they choose to consume cannabis before or during a game.

Stern was also especially keen on the War on Drugs at its heights in the 1980’s. At the time, during the beginning of his tenure as Commissioner, he enforced a ban on smoking cannabis, though not drug testing.

The former NBA commissioner actually initially announced a reversal of opinion regarding the league’s ban on cannabis in 2017. He said watching a CNN documentary on the subject led to him changing his mind.

Long Time Coming

Compared to other professional leagues, the NBA’s ban on marijuana is exceedingly strict.

Last week, Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters was banned for 10 games after he acknowledged eating a marijuana edible.

DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns was banned for 25 games and will lose roughly $2 million for testing positive for a substance known to clear the body from THC.

The issue of players using cannabis for beneficial reasons, rather than strictly intoxication, has long been an issue in the NBA.

Stern’s most recent announcement, along with signs that the National Football League (NFL) could soon soften its prohibitionist stance, has been seen as signs that professional sports leagues could be moving closer to allowing the use of cannabis.

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