Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy talks to his bench Oct. 23,2017, in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy: NBA in a “tough spot” on marijuana as more states legalize

"You let people be impaired by alcohol because it’s legal, how are you going to draw that distinction with marijuana in states that it’s legal?" asks the coach

LOS ANGELES — When former NBA commissioner David Stern speaks, people listen.

And when Stern told Uninterrupted, a LeBron James-backed multimedia platform that marijuana should be removed from the league’s banned substance list, it drew notice.

Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy stopped short of agreeing with Stern.

But with attitudes changing in regards to marijuana, Van Gundy admitted the NBA faces a complex issue with tough answers.

“I think the NBA is going to be in a tough spot down the road — not just medical — but as more states legalize marijuana even for recreational use,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s practice at the Galen Center on the USC campus.

“That doesn’t mean you have to allow it. There’s still some businesses who test for it, but you let people be impaired by alcohol because it’s legal, how are you going to draw that distinction with marijuana in states that it’s legal?

“To me, that’s a tough one.”

Stern made his comments to former player Al Harrington as part of a documentary. Harrington has become a marijuana advocate.

“I’m now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the banned list. You’ve persuaded me,” Stern said.

Stern detailed the previous thought process as it pertained to marijuana.

“It was generally known at some point, until we tightened the rules, that a lot of our players were smoking a lot of marijuana,” Stern said. “In fact, some of our players came to us and said, ‘Some of these guys are high coming into the game.’ But we began tightening it up, and at that time, people accepted the generally-held wisdom that marijuana was a gateway drug and that if you start smoking, you’re liable to go on to bigger and better stuff.”

NBA spokesman Mike Bass responded in a statement.

“While (current NBA) commissioner (Adam) Silver has said that we are interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, our position remains unchanged regarding the use by current NBA players of marijuana for recreational purposes,” Bass said.

But times have changed, with one report predicting all 50 states will at least allow marijuana for medical uses by 2021.

Several NBA cities are in states that allow recreation use.

“I’m not trying to be critical of the NBA … but they’re going to have to look into that policy,” Van Gundy said. “You have guys playing in Denver, living in Colorado. It’s recreational use that’s legal and you’re telling them you can’t use it without repercussions?

“I’m not telling Adam Silver and the league what to do, but’s it’s not going to be an easy question as more and more states legalize it for recreational use.”

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