Last month NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that cannabis would remain prohibited in the league. Commissioner Silver commented on the status of cannabis policy in the NBA during an interview with Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum. Below are Adam Silver’s comments from the July interview, per NBA.com:
“I don’t see the need for any changes right now. It’s legal in certain states, but as you know, our players are constantly traveling and it might be a bit of a trap to say we’re going to legalize it in these states but no, it’s illegal in other states and have players get in a position where they’re traveling with marijuana and getting in trouble.”
The threshold for the NBA’s cannabis test is very strict – 15 ng/mL of THC metabolites. To put that into perspective, Olympic athletes are held to a standard of 150 ng/mL, ten times the limit of the NBA. The NBA’s cannabis testing policy has zero exceptions. All cannabis use is prohibited, even when the use is for medical purposes, and even when the use occurs in a state where adult-use is legal.
Commissioner Adam Silver has historically made it clear that the league will keep the status quo in place for the foreseeable future. For instance in 2014 Mr. Silver stated that the league was ‘more concerned about HGH‘ than cannabis, but that the league felt strongly that cannabis would affect players’ performance on the court. No evidence was provided at the time (or since) to back up the league’s anti-cannabis stance.
Knowing Adam Silver’s hard line stance against cannabis, it was surprising for the Uncle Cliffy team to read a report claiming that Commissioner Silver recently expressed an openness to exploring the idea of allowing league players to consume cannabis for medical purposes. According to Slam Online and other online reports, Adam Silver reportedly made the following comments while visiting Israel as part of the Basketball Without Borders program:
“I would say it’s something we will look at. I’m very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana. My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it. Hopefully there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it.”
The report cites a Reddit post as the source for comments. Given the NBA’s history of a zero-exception cannabis policy, and Adam Silver’s recent comments continuing to oppose cannabis reform in the NBA, the Uncle Cliffy team is taking the report with a grain of salt until the NBA confirms that the Commissioner actually made the comments. We are definitely hopeful that it’s the case, but inquiries by the Uncle Cliffy team to the NBA about the comments have so far gone unanswered.
If the report is indeed true, it would be very encouraging for reform efforts in the NBA, and for reform efforts in other leagues that prohibit cannabis. However, the Uncle Cliffy team feels that such a move should be seen as a good step in the right direction, and not a ‘permanent fix’ to the NBA’s cannabis policy. Medical cannabis reform would help some players, but would still lead to other players being targeted, players that live in prohibition states being left out, and the league still perpetuating institutional racism by punishing players that are caught with cannabis by law enforcement away from the team. This is a situation that the Uncle Cliffy team will be keeping a close eye on, and will make sure to post an updated article if/when more information becomes available.