Lead photo via Bureau of Land Management

Congressional cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer is the latest public figure to weigh in on medical marijuana in professional sports, urging both the NBA and NFL to stop persecuting their players for using a natural painkiller.

In the weeks since former NBA commissioner David Stern sat down with player-turned-ganjapreneur Al Harrington to discuss basketball’s ineffective and misguided cannabis ban on camera for LeBron James’ Uninterrupted, current NBA coaches, league officials, and players have all weighed in on the controversial subject, opening a can of worms that does not look like it will go away quietly.

To find opinions on this shift in the dialogue about banned substances from outside of the NBA’s self-contained universe, TMZ caught up with Rep. Blumenauer in Washington D.C., where the vocal legalization advocate expressed strong feelings in support of players’ rights.

“What we’re seeing is a number of professional athletes who choose to deal with the really terrible pain of their profession using marijuana for medical purposes,” Blumenauer told TMZ. “It’s much less damaging than the opioids, the painkillers, the shots, the pills, and it's time professional sports stops punishing them but works with them.”

As Harrington alleged in the short documentary released last month, about 70% of the NBA’s players, coaches and owners are already using cannabis, and by ignoring the immense damage caused by addictive, chemically manufactured alternatives, the NBA and NFL are simply dooming their athletes to a life of prescription pill dependence or chronic pain, and often times, both.

Blumenauer, who represents Oregon’s 3rd District  home to the Northwest’s last remaining NBA franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers  believes strongly that superstars like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should be able to consume the same legal weed as the rest of his constituents without facing unnecessary punishment from their employer.

“It’s healthier for them than what’s going on now, and it’s where the rest of America is,” Blumenauer told TMZ. “Over two thirds of Americans have access to medical marijuana and the NBA and NFL shouldn’t be second class citizens.”

In an effort to bring those same freedoms to federal employees, Rep. Blumenauer introduced a piece of legislation earlier this year that, if passed, would bar the government from using positive cannabis drug tests to block prospective employees from working for federal agencies.

And while a number of businesses in legal weed states have revised their substance abuse policies to treat cannabis use like alcohol, those changes have not been made in any of America’s four leading professional sports leagues. In a separate interview, TMZ also caught up Harrington on the streets of Los Angeles, where the journeyman power forward told reporters that he hasn’t heard word one from current league honchos about making changes to the NBA’s substance abuse policy.

Hopefully the pressure from Congress’ top legalization proponent will set a fire under commissioners Adam Silver and Roger Goodell to push up the timetable on ending cannabis prohibition in professional sports.

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