Sports & Fitness

Ex-Warrior’s talk with David Stern signals sea change on marijuana in the NBA

Former NBA commissioner David Stern envisions a champion for cannabis who helps change the league’s stance on medical marijuana.

Al Harrington might just be that person.

The 16-year NBA veteran sat down with Stern as part of his video “The Concept of Cannabis” — which Uninterrupted dropped Wednesday, to widespread attention. During their in-depth conversation, Harrington asked Stern why he thinks the NBA has yet to yield its view of the consumption of weed as a violation.

“I don’t think there’s been a proper spokesperson for this subject,” Stern told Harrington, who played two-plus seasons with the Warriors. “I think if legal marijuana is available, then it’s up to the individual and doctor. You tell me it worked for you and it worked for others that you know, then we should find a way to get that defined and made official and then proceed to educate the team docs.”

Stern seemed to complete a change of mind on marijuana in the NBA while talking with Harrington.

“I’m now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the ban list,” Stern said. “I think we have to change the collective bargaining agreement and let you do what is legal in your state.

“If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I think you should be allowed to do what’s legal in your state.”

Twenty teams play in places where medical marijuana has been legalized and seven teams are in states where weed is completely legal.

“I think there’s universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal,” said Stern, noting a report by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta heavily influenced him.

Harrington first found healing powers in CBD, the compound of cannabis that allegedly eases physical pain, after a series of knee injuries he had while with the Nuggets (one of the teams now in the latter category).

“I immediately felt the difference,” Harrington said of his first experience with CBD.

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Stern asked Harrington whether his doctor prescribed him the medication.

“I was self-prescribing myself through people in the industry,” Harrington said. “They told me it wouldn’t hsow up on a test — which it never did. I’ve never, ever been in a program, my 16-year career.”

That fact elicited a “that’s interesting” from Stern.

Harrington estimated that as much as 70 percent of professional athletes (as well as some coaches and owners) partake in pot.

“I think it’s that big,” he said.

Harrington explained in the video, following his NBA career, he became a cannabis entrepreneur. His mindset on such a profession “completely flipped” from the common perception of a drug dealer, he said, and he has invested $3.5 million in his cannabis company named after his grandmother. Viola Extracts has facilities in Denver, Detroit and Portland — plus has plans to expand into Jamaica and California. (He even brought a bag of products for Stern, who gracefully accepted them contingent on their legality).

Harrington noted people’s worries about what to tell their children in concern to cannabis. His daughter asked about him smoking and he told her it was for his “aches and pains,” that it is “like my medicine.” He predicted that by the time his kids grow up, “It will be normal to them.”

Stern’s newly enlightened stance certainly shows such a paradigm shift overall. During his 30 years as commissioner, Stern was popular amongst both owners and players. His latest view should lead to change.

For now, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement assesses entrance into the league’s drug treatment program and a second violation incurs a fine of $25,000. A third strike gets a five-game suspension.

Harrington sounds like he wants that to change. His mission may have found some steam to go with it’s unofficial spokesperson.


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