Discussions regarding the use of marijuana as a safer pain-relief alternative have become more prevalent in the NBA since Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged in early December he tried using it to treat chronic back pain, and former NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups spoke up on the topic Friday.
Appearing on ESPN's NBA Countdown (h/t Complex's Dana Scott), Billups told a panel that included Tracy McGrady, Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle that the NBA should look into legalizing marijuana as a way for players to avoid addictive painkillers:
For medicinal use, I think we absolutely need to have that conversation. The Players Association, they need to talk about that with the NBA, because there’s a lot of science behind it… because we’ve been through a ton of injuries. I’ve seen a piece on Jason Williams, who was the No. 2 pick in the draft, that talked about him being addicted to oxycontin and pain pills, and it would have been much better and much easier thing to have marijuana as a relief.
Billups also disclosed that marijuana helped some of his former teammates relax when they were dealing with pregame anxiety.
"I had teammates. … I actually wanted them to smoke; they played better like that," he said. "It helped them focus in on the game plan. … I needed them to do that. I would rather them [smoke] sometimes than drink."
In May 2015, TMZ Sports polled 10 anonymous NBA players who were unanimously united in their support of medical marijuana legalization for players in the Association.
While the league has yet to indicate it's ready to legalize medical marijuana for players as a pain-relief alternative, the NBA does have one of the more lenient marijuana policies among major professional sports leagues.
Players are fined $25,000 for a second positive marijuana test and suspended for five games for a third positive test, according to Yahoo Sports' Kelly Dwyer.
Following the passage of several November ballot measures, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states, while recreational weed is legal in eight.