NBA Player On Medical Marijuana: ‘We’ve Been Deprived’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Larry Sanders received a five-game suspension this week for using marijuana, which is in violation of the National Basketball Association’s drug program. But rather than issue a contrite statement to fans and the media, Sanders on Friday night defended his use of the substance, saying that he thinks it should and will be legal, and that players have been “deprived” of the medicinal benefits of the drug.

“It’s something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me,” Sanders told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“I will deal with the consequences from it. It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I’m going to use it

I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.”

He went on to say that, “Once [marijuana] becomes legal, this all will go away.”

While this may come off as an overblown excuse for an NBA player who got busted violating league rules, Sanders may actually be speaking from experience. He has been sidelined with injuries virtually all season — first with a thumb injury and currently with an eye socket fracture — which means he’s been dealing with a fair amount of pain and recovery. (It means also, by the way, that the suspensions don’t really affect him.)

Medical marijuana can be used to treat such pain and aid in sleep for players recovering from an injury like Sanders’. It’s for this reason, in fact, that the National Football League’s commissioner has said that he’s open to “the evolution of medicine” to include marijuana for players. As Sanders said, marijuana, medical or otherwise, is proliferating legally. Nine NBA teams play in states where the stuff is legal in one form or another (Sanders’ team’s home state is not among them). The new laws offers coaches and players an opportunity to reconsider the substance’s medicinal uses.

But so far that hasn’t meant change for the NBA. The league doesn’t test players for marijuana during the off-season. But when Colorado’s recreational marijuana law passed last year, a league official confirmed “Nothing has changed” for players’ mid-season use.

“When the NBA and the players association did the team awareness meeting,” recalled the players’ union vice president Roger Mason Jr, who is a guard for the Miami Heat, “that subject came up, because there was a question of whether a doctor prescribed it in certain cities would it apply? And that does not apply in the NBA, no. Medical marijuana, even if it’s legal in your state, it’s not allowed, so recreational wouldn’t be allowed, either.”