Steve Kerr Hopes Professional Leagues Soften Stance on Marijuana

As discussed in The Hemp Chronicles first blog post, cannabis is somewhat of a hot topic in the sports realm right now. While rules and regulations begin to loosen its policies on cannabis use everywhere, many of the major sports leagues have not been as progressive. The NFL has been the most resistant, however, when discussed in the NBA it is also a sensitive subject. While our first post was based around testimonials from former athletes that either played in the NFL or NBA, this one is focused on a testimonial from one of sports most successful young coaches.

After a 17-year career in the NBA as a reliable shooter, Steve Kerr was primed to become one of the NBA’s best coaches after he left the hardwood. During his playing career, Steve Kerr won 5 NBA Championships, alongside a few of the best players of all time. Playing on the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan (arguably the best player to ever touch the hardwood) from 1993-1998, Kerr won 5 Championships and contributed one of the more iconic shots in finals history against the Utah Jazz. After leaving the Bulls, Kerr won another championship with the Spurs in 2003, his final season. While with the Spurs, Kerr played alongside not one, but two of the leagues greatest big men in Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

Photo of Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr celebrating after the Bulls won the 1997 NBA Championship following Kerr’s game-winner.

In his tenure with both the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, Steve Kerr had the opportunity to play under two of the games most accomplished coaches as well. The pair of Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich has 16 NBA titles combined. While Kerr was never the star of his respective teams, it is clear that the coaches championship pedigree rubbed off, as he has now led the Golden State Warriors to 3 NBA Titles in just 4 seasons as head coach.

Photo of Greg Popvich and Steve Kerr while he played for the San Antonio Spurs.

Kerr is not only good at setting plays on the floor, yet is also good at putting ideas into motion off of it as well. In the past few years, it is no secret that Steve Kerr has had chronic back pain, and he has not been shy in sharing how he has dealt with it. In 2015, Kerr underwent two back surgeries, which caused him to miss the first half of the 2015-16 season, and experience continued discomfort. Though he returned to win the 2016 NBA Coach of the Year Award, Kerr was very transparent in how he went about treating his pain, and how he wished others would deal with it.

In a podcast with Monte Poole, Kerr was adamant in his belief that cannabis can be a viable alternative to prescribed medicine. According to him, he tried cannabis, yet it did not “agree” with his body and did not fully relieve his back pain. However, Kerr also recognizes that it did more for his body than any prescribed medicine.

“… If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal. And there’s like this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine but pot is bad. Now, I think that’s changing.” – Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach, 2016

Kerr recognizes that one of the main reasons that sports leagues are not so receptive in allowing cannabis use is due to its perception. He believes that the NFL is worried about their fan base believing that “All the players are potheads”, however he is sure that it is a much better alternative for it’s players. Though Kerr received negative feedback for his comments about the substance, he remained firm in his belief and did not shy away from the conversation. Kerr stated,

“It’s a very important issue to talk about. Having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery from back surgery, and a lot of pain, I had to do a lot of research. You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, NFL players, that’s what they’re given. The stuff is awful. The stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it can lead to, the long term health risks. The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players.” – Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach, 2016

The 3-time NBA Championship Head Coach knows that it is only a matter of time before bans on marijuana are lifted and much more accepted by the greater society. My prediction is that these huge leagues will eventually learn to listen to their players, as it is inevitably their bottom line being affected. Especially in a sport like football, if it allows players to feel better after placing their bodies through near hell every Sunday, then why not consider it as an alternative? The longer that players are able to stay on the field the better for a teams success and overall profit.

Comment and let us know what American professional sports league you think will legalize marijuana first!

Article: Steve Kerr Says He Used Marijuana for Back Pain


Legal Marijuana As An Alternative To Opioids

Continuing with the focus of the impact that legal marijuana has on Colorado, The Hemp Chronicles will now switch the focus to it’s impact on the health front. In our last post we discussed the financial and economic implications that legal cannabis has had on Colorado, but not the public health.

From a study from the Washington Post, it is apparent that marijuana legalization in Colorado helped facilitate a reverse of opiate related deaths. In the research published by the American Journal of Public Health, Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has helped to save lives even. The authors are quick to emphasize that the results are preliminary since the study took place in 2017, just three years after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014. From the study, the authors reported that,

“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years”M. Livingston, T. Barnett, C. Delcher, and A. Wagenaar, American Journal of Public Health

Many prior reports have shown an association between medical marijuana legalization and opioid related deaths, the report from the American Journal of Public Health is the first to look at the impact of recreational marijuana laws on opioid deaths. Christopher Ingraham from the Washington Post notes that marijuana is often highly effective at treating similar chronic pain that opiates are often prescribed for. Ingraham notes that from the standpoint of public health, this current trend is positive, as marijuana carries almost no risk of fatal overdose opposed to opioid use. He notes that,

“Overall, after controlling for both medical marijuana and the prescription-drug-monitoring change, the study found that after Colorado implemented its recreational marijuana law, opioid deaths fell by 6.5 percent in the following two years.” – Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, 2017

Graph version 2The authors are careful to note that policymakers would want to continue to monitor these numbers in coming years to see if the trend continues. And while they are positive that cannabis use can be a sustainable alternative to opioids and other prescribed drugs, they are quick to emphasize that legal marijuana can increase fatalities in other areas. Other areas can include fatalities related to driving under the influence of marijuana, yet the figures have not proved there to be any significant relation. Regardless the study supports the concept that,

“… increasing marijuana availability could help reduce the toll of America’s opiate epidemic, which claims tens of thousands of lives each year.” – Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, 2017

Article: Legal Marijuana Is Saving Lives In Colorado, Study Finds