Former Portland Trail Blazer Antonio Harvey On The NBA And Marijuana – ‘They’ll Catch On’ (Part Two)

Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

The NBA is no stranger to controversy. This season we’ve seen players stand up against the country’s newest administration by responding vocally and emphatically in the media. Before the year even began we saw numerous players and teams show their unity in National Anthem demonstrations designed to bring awareness to social justice. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony even took to the national stage at the ESPY’s to promote social change.

But there’s one topic that, despite surfacing more this year than seasons past, still remains in the background — and still remains banned as far as the Association is concerned.


There’s a clear shift underway in the United States in regard to the legalization of cannabis. With every year that passes, more states are legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. This is because of the many benefits that CBD offers. People using these products seem to be reporting positive impacts, and that’s why more companies, like, are offering their products in more dispensaries in America. This just makes it easier for people to access CBD, meaning that more and more people can experience the benefits of medical marijuana. Due to these supposed benefits, Sports leagues aren’t too far behind either. Currently, the NFL is researching medical marijuana options in comparison to their current medical protocol, which heavily consists of painkillers like Toradol and Cortisone.

This research began after ESPN published a confidential NFL player’s survey that reported some shocking insights:

  • 59 percent of those surveyed said that they worried about the long-term effects of painkillers.
  • 46 percent is the average number for those thought to take painkillers on a regular daily basis.
  • 42 percent believe that marijuana products (with one example being the black diamond strain) is best for recovery and pain control. 32 percent said painkillers. 27 percent said neither.

While these painkillers aren’t discussed as often in the NBA, a less physical league, the injury factor is still very much there. Torn ligaments, muscle strains, and ankles sprains are just a few of the common, yet potentially serious, injuries that occur in basketball.

Could medical marijuana make its way into the NBA sooner rather than later? What kind of benefits could it offer athletes? Will they be able to choose between the different strains on the market, such as those from flashbuds, or will there be a specific list to choose from if it becomes allowed?

In order to learn more on the subject, Oregon Sports News chatted with former NBA player Antonio Harvey, who is now fully involved in the cannabis business.

Check out Part 1 of our discussion with Harvey, where he talks about his new career!

Oregon Sports News (OSN): Steve Kerr mentioned this season he’d used marijuana to help with back problems and that the NBA should look into the substance’s medicinal purposes. He said that “athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.” What are your thoughts on all of that?

Antonio Harvey (AH): Absolutely! The NFL is already doing it. And it’s been proven that marijuana is helpful where other things simply are not. What’s helpful, and that people need to understand is that there are so many facets of the plant that are just misunderstood. You know, when people talk about marijuana, the first thing that comes to mind is getting high. And I understand that because that’s been, in modern society, that’s been the primary use. Marijuana, there are two components: There’s a THC, which is what gets you high. And there’s a CBD, which is a natural pain reliever. And I think that’s, that’s what needs to be researched is this cannabinoid. And you can actually buy just the cannabinoid. There are plants that have been grown that only produce CBD, the secondary cannabinoid that fights all of these inflammatory things. I think that that’s the information that has to become more prevalent, needs to be talked about more, is that you don’t have to get high when you smoke marijuana, you can smoke and only get the medical effects if that’s what you’re after.

OSN: Adam Silver, a couple years ago, talked about how the main focus for drug testing in the NBA is for HGH. And that’s not to say that they’re not against marijuana use, but it’s something that he mentioned that could be collectively bargained with the player’s association. Would you like to see the use of medical marijuana in the NBA?

AH: Yes, I — I want to be clear, though; it’s not just the NBA.

OSN: It’s all over.

AH: Yes, I want to see the use of medical marijuana all over because I know what it does. I feel better every day now than I ever did, and I’m not a heavy smoker, but I use CBD every night before I go to bed. And I wake up feeling better than I ever have.I have friends who suffered in pain for decades before buying product from the best online dispensary they could find, and now they’re not in that pain anymore. And so I’m a proponent now. And I do believe that the professional sports leagues … they’ll catch on. And the reality is, when I played they didn’t even test for marijuana. It wasn’t on the schedule for testing. And then it became, it got to the point where people were abusing it, and the league had to test for it. But people are going to see it go back the other way real soon.

OSN: Well, going into that, back in 1997 there was a league-wide survey that revealed that about 70 percent of the NBA’s players admitted to smoking marijuana. Jay Williams, a former player and current college basketball analyst, estimated that 80 percent of today’s players smoke in the NBA. What do you think about that?

AH: I don’t think it’s that high. I don’t think it’s that high because testing is so much more stringent and it’s actually on the banned substance list, and the test is random. I think that was more of a provocative statement than anything else. But the truth of the matter is there are guys that smoke. A lot of guys smoke in the offseason. But I don’t think it’s 80 percent. It’s probably 30 percent. I’d say it’s probably the opposite of what Jay was saying.

OSN: What benefits do you think marijuana could offer athletes? Is it purely medical, or is there more to it?

AH: Oh, I think there’s a lot more to it. My personal belief, and I’m waiting on the science to kind of come in and back it up, but my true belief is marijuana helps in two ways. One, it relieves the body of stress. And stress is a killer. But when you smoke marijuana and your stress levels come down, your body is able to heal better; that’s the THC side. Then you factor in the CBD side of it, which is a true anti-inflammatory, and you’re actually helping the body in two different ways. That’s my personal opinion, that’s how it helps me. When I smoke I relax and I allow the cannabinoids to impact my body that much further. I do know that stress create antihistamines, I believe they’re called, and it really has a negative impact on the body. So again, when I look at this, for example a cancer patient; it’s been shown that cannabis has positive effects in fighting cancer. Not to every patient, certainly not, but some people do see positive effects. It’s my belief that part of that is the destressing of the body. All of a sudden, your immune system is that much stronger. We’ve all seen it; when you’re really stressed, you’re going to get a cold. You’re going to get a cold because your immune system is compromised because of the stress. So, the relief of stress, you take an anti-inflammatory, and all of a sudden your body is implementing twice the fight it was before. And that’s just my personal opinion like I said, I’m waiting on science to back that up.


The NBA isn’t going to change its policies overnight, but with more and more prominent figures speaking out on it, it’s not difficult to picture a league where medical marijuana not only exists, but is a preferred method of pain relief and injury recovery.

At the very least, it seems like this discussion isn’t going away anytime soon.

About Darby Marioth 12 Articles
Being that Darby was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, it would only be fitting that he would have a deep love for vibrant forests, rushing rivers, and NBA hardwood. He's been covering the Portland Trail Blazers since his junior year at Franklin High School, where he took a year of French language classes in order to meet Nicolas Batum. Over the last couple of years, Darby has had multiple Blazers-related articles syndicated by various local publishers. A rec league regular, Darby will proudly tell you about that one time he almost brought his team back from a 16-point deficit. If he had to compare his game to a former NBA player, he would tell you that his skill set is a mix of Jameer Nelson and Corey Maggette. Try to figure that one out. By day, Darby is a social media manager & PR representative. By night, he's a writer covering the NBA. You can keep up with Darby's Trail Blazers/NBA ramblings on Twitter (@DarbyMarioth).