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NCAA’s rigid policies put Wolverines’ McGary on path to marijuana martyrdom

Mitch McGary

Mitch McGary

If you’re a stoner hoops fan, knowing that one of your favorite ‘ballers smokes weed can make rooting for them all the more exhilarating.

Rasheed Wallace was my guy on the ‘Going To Work’ era Pistons teams, not only because of his exquisite game, but also because his reported off-the-court love of ganja made him easy to relate to. Knoxwing ‘Sheed was going to celebrate with a blunt of some funky stuff after a big Pistons win lent to his quirky, outlaw persona and made his superlative feats of physicality all the more impressive. His excellence undermined the notion that smoking marijuana prevented people from performing at an exceptional level.

Now another uniquely skilled big man with the rare combination of size, athleticism, and a fondness for the chronic is taking his game to the pros. Last week, the University of Michigan’s star center Mitch McGary announced that he was entering the NBA draft after the NCAA slapped him with a one-year suspension for testing positive for marijuana.

Although McGary had been sidelined for most of the year following back surgery and had not appeared in uniform for months, he was still subject to random testing and had pot in his system during the Wolverines 2014 Elite 8 tournament run. The suspension and subsequent departure of McGary deals a crushing blow to the Wolverines’ hopes of repeating as Big 10 champions in 2015. It also may cost McGary millions of dollars, as a return next year was expected to bolster his draft stock, which is now further jeopardized by the stigma of being a broccoli smoker.

That stigma, however, may not be as pervasive as it once was. The absurd severity of McGary’s punishment has caused a firestorm of outrage directed at the NCAA, a reflection of people’s evolving attitudes in regard to marijuana. While some have questioned McGary’s decision making, the majority of pundits have bashed the NCAA’s draconian drug policy.

Given that McGary had never tested positive for pot prior to his back surgery, it’s very possible that his use of weed was for its medicinal effect and not solely recreational. The NCAA has already amended its drug policy to reduce suspensions from a full season to a half season for marijuana violators.

With the publicity McGary’s case has brought to the issue, it’s possible that the rules will become increasingly less punitive and Mitch will become a marijuana martyr. While Michigan fans will have to cope without his effervescent presence on the court, he will become an icon to a groovy new community of admirers.

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