In the state of California, in the year 2016, there were 750,000 medical marijuana patients. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was one of them. He was in good company even as he was suffering immensely. Hoping for pain relief, Kerr smoked weed on two separate occasions though it didn’t do much to alleviate his physical agony.
The criminalization of marijuana began in the 1930’s as a way to control immigrant populations, particularly those from Latino countries that used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Some 80 years later, the decriminalizaion of the drug has been effective in more than half the United States as medical marijuana laws have been passed and the stigma of marijuana has receded to a shrug.
For Kerr, the pain was so intense from back surgery complications, he couldn’t start the NBA season and missed the Warriors epic run of 24 straight wins which was coached by assistant Luke Walton. When he returned to the bench, Kerr still looked as if he was in despair and not completely healed. Rumors swirled that there was a chance Kerr may not be able to continue his career, the pain was that chronic and debilitating.
Kerr admitted that the marijuana was an experiment. Anyone who has been in severe pain understands Kerr’s decision making, rationale and thought process. You search for whatever will fix your suffering. Chronic pain creates a level of stress in which you are desperate and will try anything. Often, the pain creates suicidal thoughts.
“I”ve actually tried marijuana twice during the last year and a half, when I’ve been going through this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with.”
Even though Kerr admitted the marijuana was no match for his back pain, he thought it was worth it. “I was searching for answers for pain. I’ve tried pain killers and drugs of other kinds as well, those have been worse. It’s tricky.”
What is really tricky is that Kerr is the coach of a NBA team in a league in which marijuana is a banned substance. Players testing positive for marijuana are subject to punishment. Kerr is not a player, however. The rules are different which is the paradox about Kerr’s predicament. If a player suffered his same level of back pain, he wouldn’t be allowed to use marijuana for relief, although many Californians have done exactly that and now so has Steve Kerr.
Back pain is like walking through the seven rings of hell. You will do anything to neutralize the physical symptoms. It robs your willingness to function on a day to day basis. It is grotesquely distressing.
By telling his personal story, Kerr hopes that sports leagues will lessen the penalty for marijuana use. As more states legalize marijuana and it becomes readily available to the general public, regulated and taxed, the more complicated it will be for sports teams to ban it on merit. Particularly as marijuana has proven to be helpful with pain. Athletes across the board, in season, have to deal with pain management issues. So why not marijuana?
A 2010 Canadian study in which 21 men and women were studied, near or around the same age as Steve Kerr, and who were having chronic nerve pain as a result of surgery, same as Steve Kerr, were found to have short term relief of pain symptoms after smoking marijuana. Marijuana advocates argue that marijuana is a better pain reliever than the more addictive narcotics that are constantly prescribed by physicians. It doesn’t create the long term physiological and neurological complications
The admission by Steve Kerr that he used marijuana, even though it didn’t help him, only adds to the debate about marijuana for public use for health reasons. Several NFL coaches have gone on record to advocate for marijuana restrictions to be loosened. At the very least, Steve Kerr changes the perception of what a marijuana user looks like. And how desperate they are to return to their normal life pain free.
photo via llananba