Golden State Warriors Coach Admits Trying Cannabis For Chronic Pain

By McCarton Ackerman 12/06/16

"I don’t think there's any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin."

Golden State Warriors Coach Admits Trying Cannabis For Chronic Pain
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Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made headlines last weekend by revealing that he tried marijuana for his chronic back pain, claiming the drug is a far safer option than painkillers dispensed by the NBA.

Kerr underwent two back surgeries last year and was forced to miss the first half of last season while recovering. Speaking on a CSN Bay Area podcast, the NBA coach said he tried marijuana twice in the past year, but found no relief for his chronic back pain. However, he didn't have any luck in reducing his symptoms with painkillers either. 

“I'm not a pot person. It doesn't agree with me. [But] I don’t think there's any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin,” said Kerr. "And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it's Vitamin C. There's this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine, but pot is bad.”

Coaches are subject to one drug test per season during training camp, but the threshold for what is considered a positive test is different for coaches and players. The NBA said in a statement to ESPN that "marijuana is included on our banned substances list. There are medical exceptions to our policy but, in this case, it's not relevant because Steve said he did not find marijuana to be helpful in relieving his back pain." 

Two of Kerr’s players, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, spoke out in support of him after his admission. Green told ESPN that he’s never used marijuana, but that his coach’s comments “make a lot of sense. When you look at something that comes from the earth, any vegetable that comes from the earth, they encourage you to eat it. So, I guess it does make a little sense as opposed to giving someone a manufactured pill.”

The Warriors coach expressed optimism that the NBA will eventually lift its ban on pot and allow players to use it to address chronic pain. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver told GQ in a 2014 interview that marijuana testing is collectively bargained with the players’ association. However, he also indicated that pot use among players isn’t a top priority.

“It’s our strong preference that players do not consume marijuana. We believe it will affect their performance on the court,” said Silver. "[But] we're much more concerned about [human growth hormone] testing and designer performance-enhancing drugs.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.