Monday, December 12, 2016 by Daniel Barker
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr may have helped open up a dialogue regarding the use of medicinal marijuana in the NBA and other sports leagues, after speaking out about his own experiences with cannabis, which he used twice in an attempt to relieve his chronic back pain.
During a December 2 CSN Bay Area Warriors Insider podcast interview with Monte Poole, Kerr admitted having tried marijuana twice during the past 18 months when his debilitating back pain became so bad that he had to sit out part of the last season.
Although Kerr personally obtained no relief from marijuana, he firmly believes its use within the NBA and other sports leagues should be approved.
When the subject of marijuana came up in the interview, the politically-outspoken Kerr weighed in on the issue, first admitting, “I’m not a pot person. It doesn’t agree with me,” but then saying, “I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin.”
Kerr also said:
“Vicodin is not good for you. … I think it’s only a matter of time before the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball realize that. And I would hope, especially for these NFL guys, who are basically involved in a car wreck every Sunday – and maybe four days later, the following Thursday, which is another insane thing the NFL does – but I would hope that league will come to its senses and institute a different sort of program where they can help these guys get healthier rather than getting hooked on these painkillers.”
Kerr’s remarks caused a stir in the press and social media, but aside from being surprised that the conversation turned into headlines saying “Kerr smokes pot,” the reigning coach of the year said he was “kind of glad it became an issue because I think it’s a very important issue to talk about.”
Warriors team members defended Kerr’s stance. Draymond Green, for instance, praised his coach’s courage in addressing the subject and said, “It usually takes a guy like Steve to do something like that to where it even starts the conversation.”
The conversation is beginning to be heard throughout the sports world. More and more players and health experts are advocating the use of marijuana as an alternative to dangerous opioid pain medications.
The NFL in particular has had a serious opioid abuse problem for years, and even though basketball is not a contact sport, many NBA players are dealing with pain and painkiller dependence issues.
America’s opioid epidemic continues to worsen, and professional athletes are just as prone to abusing painkillers as the rest of the public, if not more so. Many players find themselves dealing with chronic pain even in retirement, and opioid abuse rates are high among both active and retired athletes.
In fact, the rate of painkiller abuse among retired NFL players is four times greater than that of the general public, and most began misusing opioids while they were active players.
Marijuana has been shown to decrease dependence on opioid painkillers. In states where medical marijuana has been made legal, deaths from opioid overdoses have dropped dramatically – by 25 percent on average.
The benefits of marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers are increasingly being recognized, and it’s obvious that both professional athletes and ordinary citizens should have access to this nearly-miraculous and inexpensive plant-based remedy.
Once the stigma is finally removed from cannabis use, the prohibition can finally come to an end. 2017 should be an interesting year; if the Trump administration fails to move forward with marijuana legalization at the federal level, or attempts to reverse the progress that has already been made, then there could be serious public backlash.