Opinion: Why Steve Kerr Talking About Medical Marijuana Matters

Opinion: Why Steve Kerr Talking About Medical Marijuana Matters

By Ed Coghlan

When the coach of a marquee professional team talks about using medical marijuana—we should pay attention.


Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr is the coach of the Golden State Warriors, who won the NBA Championship in 2015 and just missed adding to it last year. And this year, the Warriors own the best record in the league through the first quarter of the season.

That’s the sports report.

His comments off the floor this week made news that matters to chronic pain patients and the medical marijuana movement.

“I guess maybe I could even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried [marijuana] twice during the last year and a half when I’ve been going through this pain, this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr told Inside Warriors podcast host Monte Poole.

Kerr famously missed half of last season in what became a very long recovery from back surgery. We never found out why the rehabilitation took so long—but it was obvious he wasn’t up to the travelling and the grind of an NBA season. He’s still hurting.

And to address the pain, like many of us, he tried different things.

“A lot of research, a lot of advice from people, and I have no idea if I would - maybe I would have failed a drug test. I don’t even know if I’m subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA, but I tried it, and it didn’t help at all. But it was worth it, because I’m searching for answers on pain. But I’ve tried painkillers and drugs of other kinds, as well, and those have been worse. It’s tricky.”

Why all this matters, is Steve Kerr is saying it.

Kerr is a smart, thoughtful guy who understands that saying he used medical marijuana can be another step towards what he hopes may help professional sports leagues soften their stances on marijuana use - believing it is a better alternative to what players are being handed for pain today.

Trust me, if the pro sports leagues start to allow their players to use marijuana to address the pain, a lot of the resistance that still exists in the federal government and beyond may be more closely examined.

There are twenty-two states that have not yet approved marijuana for medical use. (See this map) Voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas just approved it last month. The trend is moving in the direction of medical marijuana being available for everyone.

Steve Kerr talking about it won’t hurt that momentum.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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The more people speaking out on the benefits, the better. There has been a hush hush mentality about medical marijuana use, and because of the lines of communication that are available today, the word is really getting out there.


The reason his rehabilitation took so long for Mr. Kerr is because spine suregry IS NOT an absolute cure. For many of the back surgery patients the long road toward a pain “less” life is everlasting. It is a learn as you go situaton never knowing what is around the next bend. I wish to treat my chronic pain within the confines of the law, but I am wide open to any new approach for pain control. There is only pain control, not a cure for most chronic pain. I have remained hopeful and positive about a better way to control pain for over 15 years with two back surgeries behind me. If MJ has possibilities which I believe it does, I hope it becomes a mainstream treatment. Just like opioid meds used in treatment now it is bound to have some backlash from somewhere. If it has less possiblity of negative effects physiologically and on the psyche in chronic pain patients life than current medication treatment, more power to it and those whom it is helping.


Several comments, specifically Maureen, Bob S & Dooney, bring up interesting points. While my chronic pain isn’t spine-related, the accident I suffered did result in two herniated discs. Fortunately, both were successfully treated with microdiscectomy surgeries. But I have tremendous sympathy for those who chronically suffer from back pain/problems. As for Steve Kerr’s marijuana comment, I do think it’s a good thing. However, as Bob S described so well, marijuana probably plays more of role as a part of pain treatment rather than the sole remedy for pain. (I’m sure there are some who get total relief from it, though.) My issue is severe head pain (not head “aches”) and I’ve used marijuana to help with the tension and anxiety that comes with an episode of the worst pain that lasts for 10-20 days at a time, even with strong narcotic meds. However, as Tim Mason pointed out the” approved” uses of marijuana in Georgia (where I’m from and still see my pain mgt doctor there), I cannot have it in my system when I give my urine sample at each Dr appointment. Even though I DO benefit from it, I can’t risk being legitimately expelled from my Dr. As for Kerr’s comment about pain meds not helping him, I don’t think it’ll hurt those of us who benefit from pain meds. He wants something to relieve his (apparently) chronic pain that allows him to continue to be an NBA Coach. Unfortunately for him, he might be in that stage where he’s searching for a “cure”. I believe most of us have been there, too, only to learn that there is no “cure”, just meds and other things that can HELP with the pain. I’ll be watching Coach Kerr closely over the next few years. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has to retire from coaching at a relatively young age due to the pain. If so, a lot of people will get a different perspective on how difficult chronic pain can be. I don’t wish it on anybody, by the way, and I hope he’s able to coach for many years to come. But, when a public figure like Steve Kerr is discussing chronic pain and the media takes note, even if “marijuana” is what they’re focused on right now, I believe that’s a good thing for those of us who live with it every day.


I read more of the comments online that he said in talking about trying marijuana. While it’s great he admitted to using it and saying hey it didn’t work for me at the same time he really dissed Vicodin saying how horrible it was. So that is a huge disservice to those of us who do rely on narcotics for pain. We need those in the spotlight to step forward to say how it helped/helps. Fine it didnt work for you but it does for many people. To me it was one little step forward and a huge one back.

Bob S

What’s astonishing about Coach Kerr’s medical story, is that nobody is asking whether the spinal surgery he underwent, made him better or made him worse. Musculoskeletal pain in the back, may not respond to surgery. It is only when a bone or a disk has been damaged, or a foreign object (such as shrapnel from an IED exploding during a terrorist attack) gets lodged in the spine, that surgery will reduce back pain.

We don’t think to ask if the surgery made Coach Kerr worse. Yet the evidence speaks for itself, that up to a third of US spine operations do not target an obvious and evident spinal injury for repair, and end up failing to relieve pain or improve function..

Yet Coach Kerr shows anxiety over his gutsy decision to describe his failed experience with one strain of cannabis. Will he make life difficult for other patients who need cannabis, by stating that he tried a cannabis strain once and it didn’t relieve his pain?

A soldier showing up at an aid station, helped to walk by a buddy, who has a three-inch length of sheet metal wedged between his neck muscles and potentially touching the C-5 vertebra, will get the neck immobilized by medics and a helicopter ride to the nearest hospital able to perform the spinal surgery to remove the shrapnel safely. We commonly understand, that patients who clearly need surgery, recover a lot faster and more completely, if they have the surgery promptly. The fact that some surgeons perform unnecessary surgery, does not affect anyone’s judgment, when a patient presents, who clearly needs surgery.

I hope the day will come soon, that we realize the fact that medical cannabis can fail to help some people, but is an important drug because of the people whose condition it can help. There are hundreds of substances inside a cannabis plant. Combinations of some of the substances, with reduced amounts of some of the other substances, are exactly what it takes to achieve different effects in different people. Doing the science on how this works, is exactly how every other medical discovery gets made.

It’s by learning from the failures, as well as the successes, that we acquire knowledge we can use to improve health. We should thank Coach Kerr for providing this personal information.


I used to think it was a good thing for pain patients to have pain being spoken of in the media. Now I cannot open a newspaper or listen to the radio even browse news outlets online without being bombarded with anti pain med propaganda. I’m tired of all the talking about pain opioids medical marijuana. I live everyday in excrutiating tiresome life changing pain. Daily I hear that I’m an addict a bad person not strong enough tough enough I’m somehow morally depraved because I treat my pain. Even after I visit this site now all day I will get suboxone banners on every site I visit. Marijuana, been there. I’m tired too of everyone telling me it’s somehow a magic cure all. I just recently ceased using the anxiety was far greater than the pain relief. I wish we could come to a point where people stopped talking about what everyone else needed to do or be doing stopped interfering with my pain and healthcare and started minding their own business.


Perhaps he didn’t try the proper MJ for pain?? Not just ‘any pot’ will help pain.
I watched a video the other night with a panel of 5 of this country’s top Neuroscientists who have been specifically working on the exact property in the marijuana plant that helps pain. They’ve proven much and I learned a lot! These lab studies are surely going on for us!
But, at the end of the video one of them states that the government is holding them back from moving on with it, how very very frustrated they are, and that it may be about 10 years before the gov’t allows them to develop and market the product.
Big brother strikes again!!

Carla Cheshire

Interesting and gutsy on Steve’s part. NBA athletes are drug tested for marijuana and other drugs on a regular basis. I guess they do not test the coaches or he’d be in some real hot water. He like many of us has probably ended up with a back surgery that wasn’t as successful as it was touted to be. I was told that 85%+ of spinal fusions are successes. After my failed surgery I was treated by my surgeon like it was my fault that it failed! I was told by nursing staff after my second surgery that it was more like 50% were not successful. It would be nice to have the facts to make more informed decisions. I’m sure Mr. Kerr also had access to the finest surgeons that many of us do not.

Marijuana doesn’t do anything for me either, but it’s nice to see that someone else prominent is willing to speak out on this matter.

Roslyn Bourgeois

Mr Kerr. Thank you for sharing the fact that you tried marijuana. Only people who have and are trying to live with severe chronic pain can understand what it means when someon says you would try anything.
If it didn’t work, then maybe, you, like I, were not adequately informed, taught what kind to use, what strength, and what delivery system would work best for a particular condition. And I believe that part of what contributes to being inadequately informed is the fact that people are unfairly criticized if it is made known they are seeking pain relief, and looking at all options available.
I hope you keep trying and that you find someone who can be an advocate on your behalf.

Tim Mason

Below is a list of diseases that a 5% THC oil is approved for in the State of Georgia.

1.Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea and vomiting.
2.Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
3.Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries.
4.Multiple Sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
5.Crohn’s Disease
6.Mitochondrial Disease
7.Parkinson’s Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
8.Sickle Cell Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.

Chronic pain is not on the list. The visions of people smoking a joint before heading off to work is only a pipe dream.