Warriors' Steve Kerr on medicinal marijuana: 'Our country is starting to wisen up'

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said on a CSN Bay Area podcast on Friday that he tried using medicinal marijuana in order to ease his chronic back pain. It didn't work for him, but Kerr said it was worth it because it's so much less harmful and addictive than the painkillers that are routinely prescribed.

The comments were treated as some kind of revelation, and there were quickly responses from around the league, including some support from Warriors forward Draymond Green. Kerr told reporters Saturday that he was surprised it made so many headlines, and then he discussed the importance of removing the stigma around medicinal marijuana and bringing the dangers of painkillers to light, via the San Jose Mercury News' Anthony Slater:

"I don't think it's a big deal," Kerr said. "But I do find it ironic that if I said I used OxyContin for relief for my back pain, it would not have been a headline."

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"You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet," Kerr said. "NFL players, that's what they're given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it could lead to, the long-term health risks. So the issue that is really important is: How do we do what's best for the players? But I understand it's a perception issue around the country. NFL, NBA, it's a business. So you don't want your customers thinking these guys are a bunch of potheads. That's what it is. But to me it's only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues. Because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they're prescribing is really bad for you. The stuff that they're banning is fine. Again, it's perception. But I do think it's a matter of time. You can see it with our country. Our country is starting to wisen up on the medicinal marijuana side. But I hope we can wisen up on the prescription drug side. That's scary stuff and it's really not talked about very often."

Kerr said the "conversation is important" and continued.

"I'm always struck every time I'm at home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes on and they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat," he said. "And you just wait for the qualifier: 'Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death.' And you're just like this is insane. It's insane. It really is. And yet the stigma is not on those drugs being prescribed day and night to anybody. The stigma is on something that's relatively harmless."

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"I just urge people to do your research before you start taking the stuff we're all encouraged to take," he said. "And I always feel bad for the NFL guys. Playing in the NBA, I had lots of injuries, plenty of pain. I never took anything like the opioids we're talking about. But NFL guys, those guys are basically in a car wreck every week. Sometimes twice in five days which is another issue. But when they're prescribed that, it's really scary. Especially when they're prescribed by team doctors when you do research on the possible repercussions."

Steve Kerr in Indiana
Steve Kerr thinks the stigma around medicinal marijuana needs to go. USATSI

Kerr made sure to add that he's not talking about the recreational use of marijuana. With the attention this is getting, though, perhaps that broader conversation will start soon. Retired NBA players like Cliff Robinson, Al Harrington and John Salley have been vocal about their marijuana use as proponents of legalization, but players in the league rarely say anything about this. One notable exception: Larry Sanders, who spoke up after a suspension in 2014 and later stepped away from the game.

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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