We're not going to get into a debate regarding whether marijuana should either be legalized, or remain verboten. That's for another time, another space, and for the ears of another government who doesn't want to listen to the debate anyway. Maaaan.
What is worth discussing is the NBA's role in policing the lives of its employees, namely, subjecting its players to random tests for recreational drugs like marijuana, a narcotic that hardly offers any benefits for its users in terms of athletic performance.
David Harrison, a sometimes-motivated backup center for the Indiana Pacers (cruel to point out in light of this, but it is the truth) was suspended for testing positive for smoking marijuana two weeks ago. It was his third offense, which leads to an automatic five-game suspension. Upon returning to the team yesterday, Harrison had this to say to Indianapolis Star NBA scribe, Mark Montieth:
"I don't understand how they have a right to look into our lives on any level besides performance-enhancing drugs. It's not a rule made by government and it's not a rule made by God; it's made by an organization (the NBA). I guess they feel it will benefit that organization."
Well, as Tom Ziller pointed out yesterday, "it" (toking up) is a "rule made by government," whether you believe it unfair or not. What Harrison takes offense to is the NBA's testing for drugs that - for all intents and purposes - has little bearing on what actually happens in the basketball court.
And, to be fair, he's right: lesser of many evils here, but I'm sure NBA teams would much prefer their players to soothe aching joints while trying to come down after an NBA game at night with a spliff and a spirited bout of Madden '07; as opposed to chugging away at their local, or partaking in other powdery things.
But it's still illegal. And for a league that has no legal right to search into whether or not their players are engaging in huge gobs of illegal betting, pitting canines against each other, or bootlegging Doobie Brother CDs into China, it's the least they can do. And they'll do it: especially after the players union that Harrison is a part of collectively bargains drug testing into its labor agreement with the league.
Harrison's not done talking, though. Indy Cornrows came across a radio interview David participated in yesterday on 1070 AM. Here's a link to the mp3 of the back-and-forth.
Two things to take from it: David is very intelligent, quite lucid, and quite articulate; and not just by NBA standards. To pull this sort of conversation out of his noggin, early in the morning and in a Milwaukee hotel room ... very impressive. Take it from someone who has failed miserably to articulate much simpler topics over radio interviews, after the benefits of half a quart of iced tea.
Secondly, David's a little ticked. He's obviously gone over the subject in his head hundreds of times, whether he's creating strawmen to make himself feel better about partaking in what is still an illegal activity, to questioning the inherent hypocrisy in limiting certain forms of un-taxable recreations while pharmaceutical companies, breweries, distilleries, and tobacco companies rake in trillions.
But it's still illegal. And it isn't David's right to play NBA basketball and smoke weed occasionally.
By now you've accurately guessed that I don't think smoking the drug occasionally (or, let's face it, more often than that) is anywhere close to what I would term "a bad thing."
That said, there are dozens of pro basketball leagues both here and abroad that would allow David to ply his trade for a living while passing over the idea of testing for pot. And just because he disagrees with his current union on the drug testing format they bargained around and signed off on, it doesn't mean he's allowed to be the exception to the rule. Stinks, I submit, but it is how things work (or, "don't work") sometimes.