New York Knicks president Phil Jackson appeared on CBS Sports Network's "We Need to Talk"on Tuesday, and he said that, like Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, he used medicinal marijuana to treat his back pain. Jackson had back surgery when he played for the Knicks, missing the entire 1969-70 championship season because of it.
"I don't know about its medicinal ability," Jackson said. "I had back surgery, and the year I was off, I was smoking marijuana during that period of time," Jackson said. "I think it was a distraction for me as much as a pain reliever. But I've never thought of it as ultimately a pain medication for that type of situation. I know ocular things, stomach, digestive issues and other things, I think it is regarded quite highly.
"We're in a situation that's in flux," Jackson continued. "We have states -- Washington, D.C., Colorado -- have legalized marijuana. Those are going to raise issues. We also have a testing regimen that we go through in the NBA, so we're kind of in conflict with what is going to be the law. I see that as a matter of a decision that -- I don't know if we can equate it to gay marriage or whatever else, but it's a decision that's going to be made by our population at some point. They're going to come out and make that decision for us, I think, instead of legislatures trying to make the decision. I think that we have tried to stop it in the NBA. I don't think we have been able to stop it in the NBA. I think it still goes on and is still a part of the culture in the NBA. I think it is something that we either have to accommodate or figure out another way to deal with it."
This is not quite a revelation -- in "Maverick," his autobiography co-authored with Charley Rosen and published in 1975, Jackson discusses his use of both marijuana and LSD. In "Mindgames: Phil Jackson's Long Strange Journey," the biography published in 2001, Roland Lazenby wrote that Jackson agreed with friends who warned him not to smoke too much marijuana, but "he loved its effect on his mind, how it would allow him to see events and relationships in new and different ways ... how the buzz lifted and pushed his intuition to places he had never imagined."
Since then, Jackson has tried to distance himself from comments he has made about marijuana and LSD, unhappy with being portrayed as a hippie. In Lazenby's book, Jackson is quoted as saying in 1995, "The only thing in ['Maverick'] that's an embarrassment for me today is that people have picked out one or two phrases and said, 'This is who Phil Jackson is.' Sportswriters in the past have seized on one experience with psychedelic drugs or some comments I've made about the type of lifestyle I had as a kid growing up in the '60s and '70s. I've tried to make sure people don't just grab a sentence or phrase to build a context for someone's personality."
So, to be clear, Jackson did not say on "We Need To Talk" that he has used marijuana since the 1960s. He did not say he supports its use medically or recreationally. He simply said that he has used marijuana, people in the NBA use marijuana and the league should decide what to do about it.