Former NBA Star Jay Williams Says Up to 80% of Players Use Marijuana

By May Wilkerson 03/21/16

Despite 23 states and D.C. having legalized marijuana, the NBA has made no effort to adopt more progressive marijuana policies. 

Former NBA Star Jay Williams Says Up to 80% of Players Use Marijuana
Photo viaWiki Commons/Bryan Horowitz (Flickr: Jay Williams)

American pro sports leagues have notoriously strict policies regarding marijuana use. The NBA is no exception, prohibiting any type of pot use by players. But former Chicago Bulls guard, Jay Williams, is urging the association to update its policies to reflect society’s evolving attitudes towards pot. He estimates that 75-80% of NBA players already use the drug.

Williams added that players are often prescribed prescription narcotics, which are highly addictive and potentially harmful, whereas marijuana is a safer option. “It’s easy for doctors to prescribe you Oxycontin and look I was addicted to it for five plus years so I know,” he told Fox Business. “But when you say marijuana you get a reaction, ahhh, it’s a gateway drug.”

Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. And yet, the NBA has upheld its zero-tolerance policy, subjecting players to four random drug tests throughout the season without prior notice. If a player tests positive for pot once, he is required to enter the Marijuana Program. A second offense results in a $25,000 fine and a third gets him suspended from five games.

Williams said many athletes take prescription painkillers like Percocet, often prescribed for pain and injuries related to the game, which “makes you way more groggy than rubbing cannabis oil into your skin.”

Other NBA players have also spoken out about the potential medical benefits of marijuana for athletes, like UConn star Cliff Robinson who said earlier this year that he wants to “distill the stigma around cannabis and the misperception that athletes and cannabis are incompatible.” The power forward was suspended twice for using pot during his tenure with the NBA. "When you talk about guys playing at a professional level, there's a lot of physical and mental stress that comes with that,'' he said. “To have something available to you that has health benefits, I don't see the issue with it myself.''

According to Williams, pro sports leagues are unwilling to adopt more progressive policies because they still see pot as “taboo” and fear it could damage their brand. “I’m not condoning for anyone under 18 to use cannabis or marijuana, but from a medical perspective, it’s about time some of these brands like the NBA and MLB become a little bit more progressive and start thinking forward instead of being held captive in the past,” he said.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.