The rapid legalization of cannabis and the current opioid epidemic are having an interesting effect in the realm of professional sports, where players must deal with pain but are barred from using substances deemed illegal by federal government.
Leagues such as the NFL and NBA have long taken the “all-American” prohibitionist stance to the fullest extent. But more and more states, acknowledging the powerful medicinal value of cannabis, are legalizing it – and this puts the leagues in an awkward situation.
Where is the morality in denying medical cannabis (some of which cause no high) to players in states where it's legal, as studies continually confirm cannabis’ ability to aid in pain management?
This miraculous plant shows great ability to treat inflammation and neuropathic pain, by acting on the body’s endocannabinoid system in ways that are only just beginning to be scientifically understood. People have known this healing power for thousands of years.
Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson – owner of 11 championship rings and regarded by multiple standards as the greatest NBA Coach of all time – knows a thing or two about the benefits of cannabis. He wrote about it in a 1970s book, saying cannabis, along with LSD, helped open his mind.
Another NBA coach is touting medical cannabis, even admitting that he tried it recently for chronic pain.
Marijuana.com reported on a podcast interview with Steven Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
“When Poole followed up and asked if Kerr thought professional sports leagues should explore loosening their stance on medical marijuana, the coach answered emphatically.
“I would hope so, and I’m not a pot person. It doesn’t agree with me. I tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” Kerr, 51, said.
“And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal. And there’s like this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine but pot is bad. Now, I think that’s changing. You’re seeing that change in these laws that you’re talking about in different states, including California. But I would just hope that sports leagues are able to look past the perception. I’m sure the NFL is worried that their fans are going to go, ‘All the players are potheads.”
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Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone’s chronic pain, just as prescription pills don’t work for everyone, but Kerr is smart enough to realize that enough studies and personal experiences have accumulated to justify having cannabis extracts in the medicine bag.
One of the biggest reasons is that cannabis has nowhere near the addictive potential of opioid pills, nor does it cause thousands of deaths every year like opioid pills. Prescription painkillers are notoriously abused to the point of ruining physical health and ripping apart families.
The pharmaceutical industry, knowing full well the destructiveness of their most profitable drugs, are surely doing all they can to keep the NBA from loosening its prohibition. Big Pharms has a tight grip on the NFL, too, as superstar Jim McMahon described in July 2016.
Kerr described his process of enlightenment while researching ways to deal with pain from back surgery.
“You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, NFL players, that’s what they’re given. The stuff is awful. The stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.”
Marijuana.com hilariously reports that Steve Kerr’s admission almost caused them to change the head coach of their 2016-17 NBA All-Stoner team, until Phil Jackson swiftly cemented his position when asked about Kerr's revelation.
Not to be outdone by Kerr, Jackson swiftly came back and admitted that he too recently used cannabis.
“I had back surgery, and the year I was off, I was smoking marijuana during that period of time,” Jackson explained. “I think it was a distraction for me as much as a pain reliever. But I’ve never thought of it as ultimately a pain medication for that type of situation. I know ocular things, stomach, digestive issues and other things, I think it is regarded quite highly.
“We’re in a situation that’s in flux. We have states — Washington, D.C., Colorado — have legalized marijuana. Those are going to raise issues. We also have a testing regimen that we go through in the NBA, so we’re kind of in conflict with what is going to be the law. I see that as a matter of a decision that — I don’t know if we can equate it to gay marriage or whatever else, but it’s a decision that’s going to be made by our population at some point. They’re going to come out and make that decision for us, I think, instead of legislatures trying to make the decision. I think that we have tried to stop it in the NBA. I don’t think we have been able to stop it in the NBA. I think it still goes on and is still a part of the culture in the NBA. I think it is something that we either have to accommodate or figure out another way to deal with it.”
Indeed, players are not waiting on government to tell them they can use a plant to treat their inflammation, pain and mental stress. It's only a question of whether the NBA and other leagues will admit their prohibition is irrational and unjust.