Former Commissioner David Stern: Medical marijuana should be removed from banned list

With the benefits of medical marijuana becoming more widely recognized in the United States — and recreational marijuana becoming legal in many states — the NBA is continuing to study the product’s effects before changing the league’s regulations for its players.

But former commissioner David Stern thinks it’s time for a change.

Stern sat down with former player Al Harrington, who played 16 years in the league and has since become an advocate and entrepeneur in the medical marijuana business, in a recent documentary on UNINTERRUPTED. Harrington talked to Stern about his tenure as commissioner, his handling of the drug’s use among players and how his perception has changed.

“I’m now at the point where personally I think it should be removed from the banned list,” Stern told Harrington. “You’ve persuaded me.”

Stern was commissioner from 1984 to 2014 and helped enforce more strident rules during his tenure.

“It was generally known at some point, until we tightened the rules, that a lot of our players were smoking a lot of marijuana,” Stern said in the interview. “In fact, some of our players came to us and said, ‘Some of these guys are high coming into the game.’ But we began tightening it up, and at that time people accepted the generally held wisdom that marijuana was a gateway drug and that if you start smoking, you’re liable to go on to bigger and better stuff.”

Stern said in the interview that sports leagues could play a vital role — working with players’ associations — in pushing for better understanding of cannabis’ medical benefits.

I think we have to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement and let you do what’s legal in your state,

Former NBA commissioner David Stern

“I think we have to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement and let you do what’s legal in your state,” Stern said. “If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I would think you should be allowed to do what is legal in your state. Now I think it’s up to the sports leagues to anticipate where this is going and maybe lead the way.”

In a statement, NBA spokesman Mike Bass says the league’s position remains unchanged.

“While Commissioner Silver has said that we are interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, our position remains unchanged regarding the use by current NBA players of marijuana for recreational purposes.”