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NBA Debates Marijuana Policy


February 1998

Following recent marijuana arrests of four prominent basketball players, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is debating whether to amend its drug policy to include marijuana on its list of banned substances along with cocaine and heroin. Under its current collective bargaining agreement with players, the NBA's drug policy allows marijuana users to be disciplined by NBA commissioner David Stern only if the marijuana use leads to a criminal conviction. The NBA is the only one of the four major sports leagues that does not list marijuana as a prohibited substance (Bill Brubaker, "NBA Is Troubled By Marijuana Use," Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1998; John N. Mitchell, "NBA faces crisis over marijuana," Washington Times, February 8, 1998, p. C1).

In 1996, the NBA attempted to include a marijuana ban, but that proposal failed during negotiations with the players' union. In January 1997, the NBA sent a 40-page proposal to the union that included a marijuana ban and testing for the drug. However, union executive director Billy Hunter said the proposal is "too punitive" and the marijuana problem in the NBA is overstated. Last year, a New York Times article asserted that 60% to 70% of NBA players smoke marijuana and drink excessively (Selena Roberts, "Marijuana Use Goes Unchecked, Many in NBA Say," New York Times, October 26, 1997).

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