Reefer, Sports, and the Constitution


I am shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, to learn that prominent college and pro athletes have been indulging in marijuana. I thought that went out of style when Reagan put an end to the fun of the 60’s and 70’s. Seriously now, seriously now; it’s time to re-visit this issue.

Recent stories tell of college and pro athletes getting in trouble for smoking or possessing reefer. Subjects have included Joakim Noah, Mario Chalmers, Daryl Arthur, and three Penn State football players. Scott Ostler, the columnist for the SF Chronicle noted a few years ago, “If you took a group picture of all the NBA players who’ve smoked marijuana, you’d have to take it from 10,000 ft.”

Robert Parish is one of the 50 GOAT’s (Greatest of All Time) for the NBA. His legendary career lasted for 22 years. When he was 43, he committed a youthful indiscretion of having a couple of ounces of reefer Fed Ex’ed to him. Fed Ex had him busted because they do not want to be known as a drug courier. The question arises, if a guy is 43 years old and playing effectively in the NBA, he must be doing something right. Could it be that the medicinal aspects of marijuana helped Parish to prolong his career?

When I was in college, I played basketball and ran track at a D-III school in the South. Most of the varsity football, hoops and track guys enjoyed the herb socially and recreationally. We found this was so at most of the school where we visited and competed. In some instances, coaches tolerated some brazen violations of what are now called “team rules”, when a college player gets suspended for a game or two. They were hilarious at the time and just as funny now. Some of the coaches weren’t much older than us and were products of the early 70’s college experience.

During summer league basketball I developed a routine that included a shoot-around workout for an hour or 90 minutes, followed by a few hits off the joint before lunch. After a nap, I was ready for anything in the evening league games, and did quite well. I’m told that used to be the routine for NBA veterans before marijuana was added to the list of banned substances in 1999.

The NCAA lists more than 100 substances in different categories on its banned list, but marijuana is a one of two substances banned as a “street drug.” The other is heroin. This illustrates the extent to which marijuana has been demonized by the corporate arm of college and professional sports. Why? Because it’s an image thing.

Personally, I blame all this on the Reagans, Ronald & Nancy. They’re the ones who started encouraging America ’s kids to rat on their parents if they found or smelled reefer. They encouraged neighbors to report neighbors if they suspected “drug abuse.” Ronnie gave us the “forfeiture laws” that resulted in yachts, cars and cash being confiscated if contraband was found.

As a result, the culture of trust that developed in the 60’s and 70’s quickly dissipated. Sharing a joint used to be a great ice-breaker for getting to know a new neighbor. Now, new neighbors are viewed with suspicion for a few years in many places.

With regard to medical marijuana, some sectors of the medical profession safeguard the interests of patients who have dire or grave conditions such as AIDS or cancer. At the same time, growing evidence presents that it also is helpful in managing wasting syndrome, back-neuro issues, insomnia, and PTSD issues. So aside from playing a valid role in helping gravely ill patients, marijuana also can play a role in maintaining optimal health.

Rickey Williams used reefer for managing his anxiety disorder, and said he found it more helpful than the sedative based drugs like ativan and lorazepam. Rickey is back in the league now, which is a good thing. So apparently he gave up reefer and went back on their approved anti-anxiety meds. When he retires, he’ll probably buy a house in Oakland and be cool. It wasn’t for nothing that he offered to play here when he was in between suspensions.

David Stern is FURIOUS with Arthur and Chalmers. Stern’s name fits him perfectly. He reminds me a lot of a rabbi I know and don’t like, but enough about that. Stern has to make a show of coming down hard on the boys. Truth be told, they did use bad judgment in having a party during the orientation program that counsels against just that. However, Stern’s hissy-fit is mainly for the red staters and the corporate element, aside from his own self-righteousness. Corporate money drives college and professional sports. Corporations are concerned about image. Any form of marijuana usage, be it medicinal or recreational is frowned upon by corporate interests. That’s why they have more powers than the government to search your desk, person, car, locker or anything else if you’re suspected of holding contraband in the workplace.

scott.gifMedical marijuana is a hot political issue – too hot for the corporations and organized sports to touch. Considering that the federal government has been violating “States’ Rights” on this issue since Clinton, they haven’t had much encouragement to get with the program. So it’s all related: get the Feds to honor the validity of Medical M and the corporations and other levels of government will fall in line. Eventually we’ll be as cool as the Netherlands . A guy can dream, right? Twelve state legislatures have said so. Twenty-four more to go!

H. Scott Prosterman

H. Scott Prosterman is a writer, humoristm and editor living in Berkeley, California. He was born in the ’50s, came of age in the ’60s, thrived in the ’70’s, barely survived the ’80’s and regrouped in the ’90’s.” He holds a B.A. w/Honors from Rhodes College; an M.A. from The University of Michigan.


  1. says

    Mr. Prosterman, how did this article get filed under Environment? Is it better for the environment if the athletes smoke grass? Maybe the bitter sweet scent of pot smoke clouds the upper atmosphere causing expansive global dimming, which in turn inhibits sunlight and heat from entering into the lower atmosphere and so cooling the earth, which therefore balances the assault of global warming….

    Or, maybe the article could have been placed in the Social Justice file.

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