NEW YORK – The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the professional 3-on-3 basketball league of former NBA players known as the BIG3 will permit players to use cannabidiol as a medical treatment.
The move by the BIG3 makes it the first professional sports league to allow players to medicate with an ingredient extracted from marijuana for managing pain and injuries. Cannabidiol (CBD) is derived from the cannabis plant and has less than .03 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes people high. Cannabidiol was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned drugs earlier in the year.
The league released a statement, which said the decision will provide players with an alternative to prescription opioid painkillers.
“In the U.S., the shift is beginning to happen as the medication is not only used for pain management but preferred over the powerfully addictive opioids and pain-relief drugs that are often the only other option,” said the statement.
The BIG3 also said that despite the national efforts to decriminalize and legalize the drug, professional athletes are still prohibited from taking the medicine due to outdated mandates by the league.
"More than a dozen countries, including Canada and Israel, have approved CBD-based medications for both professional athletes and consumers,' said the statement.
The BIG3 league was co-founded by actor and musician Ice Cube along with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz. The BIG3 had its debut season last year at the Barclays Center in New York.
Former NBA Stars Speak on Marijuana
Former player Matt Barnes, who retired last year after playing in the NBA for 15 years, said he used marijuana during his entire tenure with the league. Barnes said he used marijuana as a medicine and alternative to alcohol and addictive painkillers to control his pain and provide relaxation.
Barnes also revealed that the NBA team doctors would inject injured players with addictive, dangerous narcotics just to get them through the game, adding that he preferred a natural and safe alternative.
Studies show that cannabidiol can actually help combat opioid addiction. A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology showed cannabidiol decreases the risk of relapse for alcoholics and drug addicts.
Another study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical marijuana have less opioid painkillers prescribed than in non-medical marijuana states.
Medical correspondent for CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta said medical marijuana could save more than 10,000 lives every year and could end the opioid epidemic. Gupta said that marijuana treats pain differently and also has the ability to heal brain tissue caused by opioids, which helps to break the cycle of addiction.
Retired NBA champion Lamar Odom agrees and said marijuana helped him to overcome his cocaine addiction. Odom said he learned about the benefits of different strains of marijuana while in rehab for opioid addiction, which helped him recover from using crack.
"I discovered certain strains that support wellness," said Odom, who now has his own cannabis business called Rich Soil Organics. Odom says he wants to help others struggling with addiction like he is.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement after the Bleacher Report requested a comment for an article about athletes and cannabis. Silver said that marijuana is banned by the league but that they are considering their policy regarding marijuana, noting that he understands the issue is important to the players.
"We will continue to gather information and explore its effects on professional athletes,” Silver said of the drug.
The BIG3 marijuana policy is effective immediately.