About Time: David Stern Says Weed Should Be Legal In The NBA

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern swished a turnaround jumper by telling former NBA player turned cannabis entrepreneur Al Harrington that he thinks NBA players should be allowed to smoke weed. On the surface, it’s an encouraging sentiment from a dinosaur trying to get with the times, but ultimately, it’s just more hot air from the man who dictated league-wide policy during the Reagan Era.

A quick Google Image search for “just say no nba” will underscore Orwellian-style doublethink of Stern’s newfound tolerance for the whacky tobacky, because there he is, clapping for Nancy Reagan (champion of all things progressive…) at an Indiana Pacers event. It’s like he’s the commissioner from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Actually, he was the commissioner in 1984. There’s a word for that; it’s synchronicity — but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

“I think that pretty smart people don’t know whats right and what’s not right, but I think there’s universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal.”

David Stern

Now that the argument against the legalization of marijuana is a losing one, it’s the perfect time for Stern to come out in support of medical marijuana: 20 years too late.

“Medical marijuana” itself is a problematic term. Cannabis does boast a litany of medicinal benefits, but at the end of the day, people just want to get high. The “medical marijuana” systems in states where they exist have been co-opted (pun intended) to include anyone willing to fork out $50 to a naturopath to obtain the requisite documentation; a process where you pay after you have your medical marijuana recommendation in-hand.

That’s not to trivialize the people suffering from chronic pain or a debilitating disease, merely to point out the difference between a healthy 21-year-old college student suffering from the effects of a “car accident” or “anxiety” and wheelchair-bound 70-year-old stricken with MS. The lion’s share of people licensed to smoke or otherwise imbibe medical marijuana in the United States skew towards that first category.

The social paradigm was different during Stern’s reign over the NBA. Weed (to some) was a no-no, on equal footing with hard drugs. Regardless, he was far from the agent of change that his hand-picked successor, Adam Silver, is.

“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.”

David Stern

The NBA is a classic “us vs. them” scenario with the players pitted against owners and the league. The notion that players were running to David Stern to snitch on their friends and teammates for smoking weed is laughable.

David Stern’s pious endorsement for lifting the NBA’s ban on medical marijuana is surface-level nice, but it means nothing coming from a man only concerned with the bottom line and maintaining the status quo.