The NBA is usually on the forefront of progressive issues compared to other leagues. That doesn’t mean it’s out in front of those same social matters in the same way some states tackle certain laws and regulations. Take marijuana for example. It’s legal for recreational use in 11 states—five of which house NBA teams—and legal for medicinal purposes in 33 additional states. However, the NBA still views it as an illegal substance and bans its players from using it.
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Kevin Durant sparked this week’s national question on the league’s marijuana policy with some recent comments. He said that weed is an acquired taste and that it isn’t for everybody. He then went on to try and dispel the stigma surrounding it. “It’s not harmful to anybody. It can only help and enhance and do good things. I feel like it shouldn’t even be a huge topic around it anymore,” Durant said.
Durant has investment in several cannabis ventures, including a delivery service who also counts Snoop Dogg as an investor. Through his involvement in these services, he’s become a de facto advocate for the herb. However, he’s far from the only proponent of the devil’s lettuce in the league.
With so many players smoking and so many states legalizing the plant, it begs the question: Why is it still verboten by the NBA?
The NBA and NBPA instituted an anti-drug program in 1983 to “detect and deter the use of illegal and performance-enhancing drugs.” Marijuana falls under this criteria. If a player is cause using pot, the penalties are stiff.
From the “Summary of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program (2019-20)”:
If a player tests positive for marijuana, or if he is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, the use or possession of marijuana, he will be required to submit to treatment, counseling, and aftercare testing in the Program. A second violation will result in a $25,000 fine, a third violation will result in a 5-game suspension, and any subsequent violations will result in a suspension that is 5 games longer than the player’s immediately-preceding marijuana suspension.
Dallas Mavericks fans may recall Nerlens Noel being suspended at the end of his last season with the team. His five-game suspension was the result of repeated violations.
For many of you, the fans, these fines, suspensions, and other penalties seem out of date—especially given what some states are doing. Almost three quarters of those polled think that the league should lift its ban on marijuana.
While fans can only vote on league policy with their wallets, the NBA is keeping its ear to the ground when it comes to the changing dynamics of marijuana. Commissioner Adam Silver recently spoke about the league’s stance on weed and the science surrounding its use for recovery and mental health. Still, though, the answers that Silver is looking for aren’t as clear as he would like them to be because the NBA’s ban may lead players to use other substances. Sliver says:
I’ve had players tell me, ‘I don’t smoke marijuana ... because you guys drug test and it’s banned and I accept that. So instead, I was written a prescription by a team doctor for an anti-anxiety medication, and that medication makes me uncomfortable.’ And I recognize that that medication may be worse for the player than smoking marijuana—even if marijuana isn’t great for you. And I also recognize that if they don’t want anti-anxiety medication and they can’t smoke marijuana, they may drink more—which is perfectly legal. ... And that might be much worse for them.
It doesn’t appear that the league is set to lift its ban on marijuana in the near future. With more and more states considering its legalization, it’s certainly on the NBA’s radar. With eight teams (Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings) currently located in states where its legal, the league’s policy—although the NBA is a private entity—is at odds with the law.
I’d be remiss in my responsibilities as an ambassador of the City of Dallas if I didn’t leave you with this one final note on weed:
OK, enough hot boxing. Let’s roll the windows down and talk about the Mavs.
After a few down weeks where fan confidence dropped to new lows, everyone appears to be back on board. It’s funny how confidence ebbs and flows with wins and losses. Well, the Mavericks are winning again and they’re riding Kristaps Porzingis’ hot streak. The league even awarded Porzingis Player of the Week honors for his efforts. And let’s not forget about Luka Doncic. He just set the Mavericks all-time triple-double record, passing Jason Kidd.
So, everything is swell in the land of MFFLs. Look at that bar shoot up!
If Dallas can keep its winning ways going through the weekend, there’s no doubt that confidence will return to 100 percent the next time we meet in this space. Until then, happy watching and go Mavs!
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