Former NBA player Al Harrington recently published an opinion piece for the Players’ Tribune that neatly sums up many of the arguments for marijuana legalization in one place.
Harrington’s article is filled with his personal experiences with cannabis, from seeing arrests in the poor New Jersey neighborhood where he grew up to seeing the positive effects medical marijuana had on his grandmother’s health.
NBA Great To Advocate
Harrington played in the NBA for 16 years, including stints with the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic.
Due to the aches and pains he suffered as a player, Harrington wrote that he took some type of opioid almost his entire time in the league. He didn’t try marijuana until he saw his grandmother using it to fight chronic pain that was affecting her vision.
It worked for her. After he left the NBA, Harrington tried it for his own chronic pain, using products derived from CBD, which is a chemical component of marijuana that does not cause the high feeling.
He saw immediate results, writing that it “worked better, with fewer side effects, than anything I’ve gotten from a doctor.”
Growing Up In New Jersey
Harrington wrote about growing up in Orange, N.J., where about once a week police officers would come by, looking for people possessing marijuana, mostly young black men.
Later, when he joined the NBA, Harrington met people from more economically advantaged backgrounds who talked about using marijuana – and knowing people who sold it – without any fear of being arrested by the police.
He wrote that it was then he began to understand there were different ways that marijuana laws were applied, depending on what neighborhood you were in. He then shared the well-known fact that while the percentage of marijuana use is about the same across all racial demographics, black people are far more likely to get arrested for it.
In this, Harrington’s argument dovetails into one made by recently elected New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Unfair Application of Law
During the campaign in 2017, Murphy consistently argued that marijuana laws were used disproportionately against minorities. He referred to an American Civil Liberties Union report that showed black people were three times more likely than white people to get arrested for possession of marijuana.
In some areas, that number rose as high as 11.3 times more likely. In one case – Point Pleasant Beach – that number rose to 31.8 times more likely.
And none of this is a “long ago” thing. The ACLU numbers are from 2013.
Murphy, sworn into office in January, has vowed to end the “mass incarceration” of minorities by expanding the state’s medical marijuana program and legalizing adult-use marijuana.
More Young Politicians
In his Players’ Tribune article, Harrington wrote that the War on Drugs “wasn’t a war on drugs. It was a war on certain people who used drugs. And that’s a fact.”
Harrington also notes that while alcohol is legal across the country and even promoted at sporting events, he knew about a dozen players who had their careers cut short because of alcohol abuse. Players in all sports experience pain, he wrote, and will find ways to deal with it that aren’t always healthy.
He argued that more young people need to run for office and make support of marijuana legalization one of their campaign promises. Surveys have shown Millennials overwhelmingly favor marijuana legalization.
He wrote that a candidate could win “on that issue alone. Because it’s not just about legalization, it’s about addressing racism, policing, the prison system, sentencing laws — all of that. Decriminalizing marijuana is one of those issues that cuts across party lines.”
Harrington, in writing about his reasons for supporting cannabis legalization, sums up many of the pro-marijuana arguments in one place. It’s a must-read for those who support legalization, and those who are still on the fence.