A lot of people are probably surprised by the news that Matt Barnes (a 15 year forward in the NBA) is claiming a large percentage of players regularly use cannabis. Athletes in all sports are supposed to have some sort of drug testing program in place. Not only for federally controlled substances, but performance enhancing drugs as well. Both of these pose potentially career-changing consequences for the high percentage of cannabis users currently playing. Athletes are subject to four random test throughout each NBA season. Once they complete those tests, they would be free to use cannabis as they please without worrying. The off-season is free from drug testing as well. These rules on drug testing do provide an opportunity for those who choose to indulge, and according to Matt Barnes, that number is around 85% of the basketball population.
Many people who play sports for fun like myself would be likely to say that consumption before a game made it much more easy to focus and get caught up in the moment of a big play. Many professional basketball players are using it for different purposes, like relieving the physical wear and tear on their bodies. It is a much safer and enjoyable alternative to alcohol, and that’s another primary reason for use among athletes. For Matt Barnes, he admitted to using it before games and that in his best games he had been under its influence. Being retired gives him the freedom to say these things, and it makes you wonder how many other guys are blazing before they arrive at the arena. It shouldn’t matter at all whether they decide to or not, as long as long as it’s not negatively affecting their performance. An athletes consistently demonstrated ability is what should determine their playing time on the floor, as long as their not abusing performance-enhancing drugs. Cannabis is not like traditional performance-enhancing drugs that boost muscle growth and are made in a lab. However, like any drug, it affects people differently and if some players indulged before a game, it could be a disaster. It should be the player’s judgment call, not the leagues on what substances to use. With marijuana legal in 8 states and medical marijuana legal in a majority of the rest, the prohibited status in the NBA is becoming more questionable. The actions of some of their players are sometimes 100 percent legal where they live or are traveling to. Use of alcohol and prescription pills remain allowed but are decreasing in popularity.
Using cannabis while strict testing and rules are in place, speaks volumes about how beneficial it is to those in the league. Some fans, as well as the sports media, will view a violation of marijuana rules as a big deal. More importantly, it will be viewed as unprofessional by the coaches and results in some serious consequences for repeated offenses. The first time a player is caught failing a test, they must simply complete a substance abuse course. After that though, they face hefty fines and larger game suspensions for each violation of the rule. It is also likely with the insane competition that a pretty good athlete can be lost about among all the other options who lack a marijuana record. The time has come for the NBA to catch up to the public’s opinion, as well as the laws being passed across the country that are legalizing and decriminalizing the plant. Studies have shown how opioid abuse has gone down in states that legalize medical or recreational marijuana and there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen within the league.