Former NBA commissioner David Stern said he is convinced that marijuana does have medicinal qualities and should be taken off the league's list of banned substances.
Stern sat down for an interview with former NBA player Al Harrington, who has become a medical marijuana entrepreneur and advocate.
"I'm now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the banned list. You've persuaded me," Stern told Harrington for a documentary on Uninterrupted.
In August, current NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Reddit: "I would say it's something we will look at. I'm very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana."
During Stern's tenure as commissioner (1984-2014), marijuana became more tightly regulated in the NBA.
"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 told Harrington. "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."
That perception has changed.
Stern said a series on CNN on medical marijuana helped change his mind. He thinks "there's universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal."
Harrington told Stern during the interview that he used CBD, a derivative of marijuana, during the last three years of his 16-year NBA career to treat inflammation from what he called a "botched knee surgery."
"I think all of the leagues are now appropriately focused on player training, structuring of the right parts of their body, player rehabilitation in the case of injury, player nutrition, player this, player that. This should be a part of that conversation," Stern said. "Can you imagine if we could create a situation where every superstar was able to play one additional year?"
Stern said players will have to use the union to negotiate for further study of the issue and maybe a change in the collective bargaining agreement.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has used marijuana to deal with back pain, said Wednesday that he also believes marijuana will one day be OK to use in the league for medical reasons.
"The perception of the fans is important in terms of selling our business, but the health of the players should be the most important thing," he said.
Asked about Stern's comments, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league's current stance on the topic 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," Bass said.