The NBA is Reaching a Tipping Point in the Debate Over Legalized Marijuana

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The legal use of marijuana, whether it be medicinally or recreationally, is gaining steam in the NBA.

First, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted last week to using legally prescribed marijuana during his recovery from a 2015 back surgery, questioning how a league could encourage prescription painkiller use for players healing from injury while listing marijuana among its banned substances.

Now, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has followed Kerr’s admission with tales of recreational marijuana use during his own recovery from back surgery as a player in 1969, suggesting the recent legalization of cannabis in several states will force the NBA to address a rule now in conflict with law.

In an appearance on CBS Sports Network’s “We Need to Talk” on Tuesday, during which he touched on several subjects, including a non-apology for his controversial “posse” remarks on LeBron James, Jackson was asked about Kerr’s recent comments on marijuana. This was his response, in its entirety:

“I don’t know about its medicinal ability. I know that when I had back surgery, the year I was off I was smoking marijuana during that period of time. I think it was a distraction for me as much as a pain reliever, but I never thought of it as ultimately a pain medication for that type of situation. I know for 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 — that have legalized marijuana. Those are going to raise issues. We also have a testing regiment 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 decision that’s — 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 legislators trying to make the decision.

“I think we’ve tried to stop it in the NBA. I don’t think we’ve been able to stop it. I think it still goes on and is still a part of their culture in the NBA, and I think it’s something we either have to accommodate or we have to figure out another way to deal with it.”

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