Ex-NBA Players J.R. Smith and Al Harrington Now Lobbying for Pot Legalization
This week, the pair of 420-friendly ballers took a trip to Albany to espouse the benefits of cannabis and help guide New York lawmakers on crafting a more equitable legalization bill.
Published on June 6, 2019

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The New York legislature got a couple of very special guests in Albany this week, when former NBA journeymen Al Harrington and J.R. Smith met with lawmakers to lobby for legal weed.

According to the New York Post, the New Jersey-born ballers spoke with a number of influential politicians and representatives across the state capital in an effort to espouse the benefits of both medical and recreational cannabis in their careers as professional basketball players. They also emphasized the importance of establishing a legal marijuana industry that is inclusive for racial minorities and those previously targeted by the War on Drugs.

New York legislators have been working on a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Empire State for months, but with a plan to include legalization in the state’s annual budget already kaput, lawmakers are beginning to lose hope that the cannabis reform measure will pass before the current legislative session closes. Harrington and Smith were invited by the bill’s sponsor, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, to visit the capital and throw up a potential buzzer-beating endorsement for the legalization push.

“It’s been very positive,” Harrington told the Post about the meetings with legislators. “You know this is something that they want, but they want to do it the right way.” 

Harrington, who played for the Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and more, has since transitioned out of the league and into the legal weed industry. His canna-business, Viola, currently produces flower and concentrates in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Michigan. 

On the other hand, Smith may not have as much experience in the legal weed market, but he’s spent plenty of time around pot during his 15-year NBA career. The athlete received at least one suspension for cannabis use, and rumors abound about J.R.’s love for all things weed. Smith was on the court playing alongside LeBron James for a shot at the NBA Championship last year, but did not find a contract during this year’s season.

“We met with a bunch of different assembly members and senators, legislators and just kind of just giving our opinion from our perspective being that we’re black,” Harrington continued. “We feel that it’s very important that we need to have the seat at the table so we can use some of these funds to rebuild our communities.”

If New York legislators are going to take Harrington and Smith seriously and pass a comprehensive and equitable legalization bill this year, they will need to act fast. The current legislative session is set to expire at the end of the month.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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