In his 15 seasons in the NBA, Kevin Durant has collected two championships and a most valuable player award, all while establishing himself as one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game.
But it turns out one of his most significant contributions to the league came off the court. And when he was under the influence.
Appearing at a sports business summit that aired Tuesday on CNBC, the Phoenix Suns star said he personally lobbied NBA commissioner Adam Silver to drop the league’s marijuana ban.
“I actually called him and advocated for him to take marijuana off the banned substance list,” Durant told CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin at the event. “I just felt like it was becoming a thing around the country, around the world … the stigma behind it wasn’t as negative as it was before. It doesn’t affect you in any negative way.”
Under a new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the players’ union, the league will no longer conduct drug screenings of players for marijuana. The agreement, which took effect earlier this month, also allows players to invest in cannabis companies –– something Durant and his business partners have done.
“Marijuana will be removed from the Prohibited Substances List (‘PSL’),” the CBA reads. “A team that has reason to believe one of its players is under the influence of marijuana or alcohol while engaged in NBA or team-related activities, or has a dependency issue involving marijuana or alcohol, may refer the player to a required evaluation treatment program.”
The agreement also permits players to “invest in a company that makes products containing only CBD, and to “hold a passive, non-controlling interest in a company that makes products containing marijuana.” Players “will continue to be prohibited from promoting marijuana companies, but a player may promote a company that makes products containing only CBD,” the agreement says.
Durant recounted his meeting with Silver, saying the commissioner could readily pick up on his passion for the issue.
“Well, he smelled it when I walked in, so I ain’t really have to say much,” Durant said at the summit, drawing laughs from the crowd. “He kind of understood where this was going. And I mean, it’s the NBA, man. Everybody does it, to be honest. It’s like wine at this point.”
Durant, who was traded to the Suns from the Brooklyn Nets last season, has been open about his pot use in the past.
In an interview last year on David Letterman’s Netflix series, Durant told the former late night legend that he was “high right now.”
“To me, it clears the distractions out of your brain a little bit. Settles you down. It’s like having a glass of wine,” Durant told Letterman, adding that he wanted to “change the narrative around athletes and marijuana.”
“It’s crazy that you got people in jail for 20 years for maybe selling a pound,” Durant said.
The NBA first began phasing out marijuana testing for players in 2020, when it announced that it was suspending testing as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Silver said at the time. “I think society’s views around marijuana have changed to a certain extent.”
Other sporting leagues have also relaxed their policies governing marijuana use. In 2019, Major League Baseball removed cannabis from its banned substances list.