Stigma Versus Science: Cannabis In The NBA

This article was originally published on Flowertown, and appears here with permission.

Cameron Stauth has published over 25 books, several of which have been national and international bestsellers. He’s written hundreds of magazine articles, the stories for two films, and served as editor-in-chief at three magazines, covering everything from sports analysis to the latest medical research. He recently released two new books: Sizing People Up and Code of Trust, which are now available in stores and online. Below, he shares his sports expertise and examines the relationship between the NBA and cannabis.

May 5, 2015: Basketball demigod Kevin Durant  – in his eighth season, with eight All-Star appearances – steps out of a club on the Sunset Strip, resplendent in pre-billionaire bling and ripped jeans, and opens the door of his SUV. Out pops a bottle full of fat, gold-frosted buds.  A companion of Durant, wearing a cop-magnet Bob Marley t-shirt, scoops up the vial of cannabis and sticks it in his pocket. KD barely glances at it, distancing himself from the once-criminal evidence.

In 2015, recreational cannabis use was still illegal in California, but legalities didn’t seem to be KD’s concern. The real problem was that the herb was just not cool with the powers that be: the Association, the Oklahoma City franchise, or the immense number of brands and sponsors who wanted to be associated with Kevin Durant, but not with cannabis.

Back then, with recreational marijuana legal in only a few states, cannabis was still highly suspect in most of the nation, and was miles away from enjoying any positive association with America’s highest echelon of culture heroes.

Cannabis was forbidden and denigrated even more in professional sports than in other glamour-zones, such as entertainment, partly because athletes have almost always led the pantheon of role models that kids follow. Also, if sports stars could achieve almost superhuman physical feats, didn’t that mean that cannabis must not be very debilitating?


Most politicians stuck with the governing hypocrisy of that time: Star athletes could not soar in their rare stratosphere of glory (and money: the proof of glory) if they “used drugs.” There was a far sharper demarcation between “drugs,” which were bad, and “medicine,” which was good. Virtually no one predicted then that prescription medicine, in the form of opioids, would be the #1 menace by 2020.

Due to the …

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