Were The Jail Blazers Just Ahead Of Their Time? The Tumultuous Relationship Between Marijuana And The NBA

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Did you ever think when John Canzano asked Damon Stoudamire to pee in that cup that we’d be sitting here today, smoking/eating/however-you-want-to-ingesting legal marijuana that we paid taxes on? Did John Canzano? In hindsight, it seems like a ridiculously invasive, baby-boomer request to ask of an NBA player. But with context, it can make a little more sense. The Blazers team was coming off a series of incidents with the law and had be given their infamous nickname; the Jail Blazers. That’s what had inspired our favorite hometown-wordsmith to challenge Damon. Well that, and a solo venture of his own at the Tucson airport. I still lie awake at night scoffing at why anyone would carry their pot in aluminum foil, but I digress.

We’ve come a long way since 2004 and the negative stigma surrounding cannabis is dissipating every day. With a record approval rating at 64% among all Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana and almost 1 in 5 adults in Oregon admitting they have used the drug in the past month, there is no question that perceptions are changing. The NBA’s drug testing protocols have remained unchanged since the 2011 lockout negotiations, where it states all players are subject to 4 random tests during the season and 2 in the summer break, or at any time with reasonable cause. Marijuana continues to be included on the list of prohibited drugs, but has a history of lenient penalties with a treatment program being the option for a first offense. This in it of itself shows that marijuana is not viewed the same as other illicit drugs by the NBA.

In August of 2017, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his openness to allowing players to use the drug for medical purposes. While players like Michael Beasley and Matt Barnes no doubtedly celebrated with a blunt, it’s the former players like Cliff ‘Uncle Spliffy’ Robinson himself that truly get to celebrate; the ones operating 20 years ahead of Silver’s mindset and the ones that will be millionaires twice before the NBA truly accepts marijuana use like it does alcohol.

Before recreational marijuana was legal in 10 states including Oregon, there was and continues to be an entire group of people that used it legally; the medical community. While it became a bit of a punchline on how easy it was to obtain a medical card, there is still a group that uses the drug with genuine medical intent. There is not a more obvious group that could benefit from the medical benefits than professional athletes.

Some of the benefits of marijuana are obvious to our 2018-Oregonian perspective; stress relief, restful sleep, etc. But all of the benefits aren’t privy to even the most frequent users, especially in states where education isn’t as easily accessible and you don’t have a budtender to explain what this edible will do to you. If you haven’t heard about CBD by now, medical marijuana is hopefully about to make a lot more sense. The type of marijuana we see sold in dispensaries now, contains things called cannabinoids; the two most common we hear about today are THC and CBD. THC is the one that makes us stoned; while it does have several medical benefits, it is also psychoactive which is that ‘high’ feeling and what most people enjoy about using it. CBD however is not psychoactive but its medical benefits include being an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxation, anxiety alleviation and much more. On 4/20 of this year, the Bleacher Report did an in-depth look at athletes usage and no matter what each individual sport’s policy is — medical or not — usage is common everywhere.

The NBA has become the 12 month a year sport I’ve always dreamed about and compared to other leagues, the spotlight on it right now has never been brighter. Allowing the use of CBD, would be a huge first step in acceptance and continue the progressive path the NBA has been on, notably compared to the NFL’s smorgasbord of anthem/concussion/general PR issues and MLB’s lack of interest problems. It constantly feels like with each step of progress made, we’re still 5 years away from being 5 years away from where we should be socially. But then I remember Rasheed Wallace and Stoudamire mobbing down I5 coming back from a Super Sonics game in 2001. After being pulled over and asked if they had any marijuana on them, Damon replied with the quote that will go on my tombstone, “No, we smoked it all.” And then I remember, we are where we as Oregonians have always been socially, the rest of the world is just finally catching up.

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Katie Thompson

Katie is a communications major at Portland State University and a native Portland resident. As an NBA enthusiast, she strives to make impactful content that any level of fan may enjoy.

1 Comment

  1. Just ahead of their time? Seriously?

    The link you provided (Uproxx) listed some of the transgressions, but not all. Your article gives the impression that marijuana use was the overriding factor. It most certainly was not. I lived through that time (former season ticket holder) and there were a bunch of, albeit talented, jerks on those teams: Wells, Wallace, Patterson, Miles, Randolph, etc.

    You should consider writing a followup that provides a complete picture of where the name Jail Blazers originated.

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