It may be against the rules, but it’s no secret that professional basketball players like to smoke weed. Whether for recreation between practices or medicinal purposes after games, cannabis has been intertwined with the NBA for decades. And with 9 of the league’s 30 teams playing in states with recreational cannabis legalization on the books, and even more in states with medical legislation, it would seem that the time has come to finally end the NBA’s unnecessary cannabis ban. But if you ask league Commissioner Adam Silver, the league is fine leaving marijuana in the shadows, shaming players for past use and suspending them when they are caught lighting up mid-season.
In an interview with the athlete-led magazine The Player’s Tribune, Portland Trail Blazers’ shooting guard CJ McCollum asked Silver if, thanks to medical advances and the fact that so many players live and work in cities where grabbing a joint at the local pot shop is akin to picking up a six pack, he has considered revising the league’s policy with regards to cannabis use. Silver wasted no time rejecting the idea, and offered a confusing bit of cover to excuse his opinion.
“It’s legal in certain states, but as you know our players are constantly traveling and it might be a bit of a trap.” Silver said. “To say, ‘we’re going to legalize it in these states, but no, it’s illegal in other states.’ And then players get in a position where they’re traveling with marijuana and we’re obviously getting into trouble.”
McCollum, not in the position to start arguments with the league’s head honcho, let the topic rest and continued on to the rest of his questions. However, we have no such allegiance to the NBA commissioner, and we definitely don’t think his argument is a valid one.
First of all, to suppose that allowing players to use cannabis without league-specific consequence would create a “travel trap” is to discredit the common sense and intelligence of NBA athletes. If John Doe, who travels from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City for meetings once a month knows to leave his weed at home, why wouldn’t Blake Griffin?
Secondly, NBA teams travel on private planes between destinations. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant aren’t taking their signature sneakers off and letting TSA search through their carry-ons before boarding the team plane. Even after a particularly hard loss, we’re guessing no local PD would have the probable cause or guts to stop takeoff and search for reefer.
What Silver really meant, is that the league answers to too many corporate partners to risk associating their brand with a plant that is still controversial and federally scheduled.
But without the conviction to actually say what he means, or change the league he oversees to better suit the players he represents, NBA players will instead continue to break the rules, get high, and suffer the consequences. All while Silver worries about travel…