NBA player Matt Barnes played professional basketball for 15 years and in 2017, won an NBA Championship playing for the Golden State Warriors. However, it wasn’t until he retired and left the game that he really began to hit the headlines: for his admittance that he’d been using medical marijuana throughout the entirety of his career.

In a roundtable discussion on the use of cannabis in sport and the impact that CBD law and sport-specific regulations have on it, Barnes admitted to having used cannabis since he was 14-years old; and continuing to do before his professional basketball games. The roundtable was organised by Bleacher Report, who gathered athletes from various sports (including both the NBA and NFL) who either used CBD for medicinal purposes or advocated the relaxation of its regulation. CBD law is dependent on the state within which its being used but for many areas, it’s completely legal; although sports people may infringe on conditions set by professional bodies relating to specific sports.
Barnes’ routine was pretty regimented when he played professionally, starting with a morning workout and shoot-out with the team before an afternoon of relaxation and a game in the evening. During the afternoon, he would smoke marijuana. Whilst he didn’t use cannabis daily, he did often on game days, saying “All my best games? I was medicated.”

When questioned, the retired pro said that he used CBD and related products to manage pain as well as to help him sleep well and lessen anxiety, particularly during periods of lots of travel and several high-intensity matches in a short space of time. Furthermore, whilst not naming anyone at any of his seven NBA teams or any friends or colleagues elsewhere, he admitted that the substance is used heavily throughout the NBA, and not just by players, saying; “GMs, coaches, presidents… some of the people that are cracking whips and suspending [players] are close weed-smokers!”.

The legality of CBD use in sport is tricky; as medical marijuana is still illegal federally. However, CBD law varies from state to state so with a prescription, it’s absolutely credible that many athletes and those working in sports, health and fitness industries can legally use it. However, those playing sport professionally must adhere to the individual rules of their sport’s governing body, which in many cases prohibit having CBD in the system. At time of writing, the NBA, NFL and MLB all ban marijuana and randomly drug-test players to detect it. Any player caught with the substance in their system would violate the rules and likely face suspension; sometimes, unpaid.

Matt Barnes has now retired from professional basketball and so can use CBD as he see fit, but hopes his openness changes attitudes in and outside of the NBA. He benefitted hugely from using CBD and with other athletes coming forward to admit the same, the scope of usage is definitely evolving.

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