Former NBA player Al Harrington is an outspoken supporter of California's Proposition 64 and an advocate for legalizing and destigmatizing marijuana use — but he didn't always feel that way.
In an October interview with The Root, Harrington said his grandmother's illness shifted his entire view of cannabis use.
"My grandmother suffered from glaucoma and she also has diabetes. I got her to try it pretty much on a whim, just from me seeing things on TV and different things like that, and people talking about the relief that it gives," Harrington said. "It worked out for her better than I expected."
Harrington said the successful results his grandmother experienced got him to do more research about the plant's benefits. He has since become increasingly vocal about Prop 64, a piece of legislation in California that would decriminalize and legalize marijuana in the state.
“On so many levels, the system just needs to be looked at and redone; marijuana is just one aspect,” Harrington says. "I’ve been in the marijuana-industry space for the last five years, and I’ve seen that it’s a predominately white space. And minorities, we’re the ones that are locked up behind it. And not only are we locked up, when we do get home, we have felonies and we can’t even work, can’t even get a job."
The 36-year-old, who played 16 seasons in the NBA, found himself one of the growing number of medical marijuana users after he suffered a torn meniscus which led to a staph infection.
"When I had my fourth surgery, I was in Vail, Colorado, and my cousin introduced me to cannabinoids (CBDs) and from that point forward, I’ve never taken another Vicodin or anti-inflammatory pill," he told The Root.
"It’s important that people understand it and get that stigma off of marijuana," he continued, later adding that he would like to help black and Latino communities find their place in the marijuana economy.
“These are nonviolent, victimless crimes. Some of these kids were caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. It doesn’t add up. Especially now that so much money is being generated," he said. "Let them come home and make a way for themselves and allow them to really change their lives for the better."