As we move into a more progressive time period of the history of the United States, certain ideas, actions, and ways of life that were stigmatized for years are now becoming more acceptable in the eye of the public, one of them being the use of cannabis.
In 2017, NBC News published the findings of a Marist Poll in which it was determined that 52 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have tried smoking marijuana at some point during their lives. 44 percent of Americans over the age of 18 continue to smoke, which came as a shock to many.
Among this 52 percent, there is a good chance that more than a few professional athletes have experimented with marijuana. There have long been talks about the legalization of marijuana across the United States, and as the drug is being legalized slowly but surely throughout the country, many are questioning whether it will soon be considered legal in the eyes of professional sports.
ESPN released a report containing facts about marijuana and the effects that it has on the human body.
According to the report, the short-term adverse effects of the drug are:
Increased heart rate
Sudden feelings of anxiety
Obviously, none of these are issues that a professional athlete would want to encounter, however, Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, offered an alternative perspective that got a lot of people thinking.
Kerr has become an advocate for exploring the possibilities of using marijuana for medical purposes in professional sports. Leagues such as the NFL have been scrutinized in the past for negligently prescribing painkillers to players in order to get them back on the field sooner.
The lawsuit brought about in 2015 stated that teams “maintain the return to play practice or policy by ensuring that players are not told of the health risks associated with taking medications." The complaint goes on to say "Players are not informed of the long-term health effects of taking controlled substances and prescription medications in the amounts given to them," according to NBC.
Kerr, who has a history of back problems, underwent a surgery that forced him to miss half of the 2015-2016 season due to complications and discomfort. Instead of using painkillers, Kerr admitted that he used medical marijuana and found it preferable to prescription painkillers, according to Forbes.
Kerr went as far to suggest that the next NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement include a clause that allows players to use marijuana strictly for medical purposes. Players should certainly be allowed to use marijuana at least for medical reasons, if not recreationally.
While marijuana is associated with side effects that seemingly would not bode well in an athletic contest, the long-term effects of the drug seem to be a much better alternative to the long-term effects that many athletes have experienced after using prescription painkillers, the most serious being addiction, as outlined in the NFL lawsuit in 2015.
As far as we know, marijuana poses no serious health risks and should be considered as a bridge to the end solution for relieving pain induced by sports injury.