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Why Pros Like Brittney Griner Choose Cannabis for Their Pain

Shawn Kemp played most of his N.B.A. career before the league began testing players for marijuana use in 1999. So after playing in the bruising, physical games typical of the N.B.A. in the 1990s, he would smoke. He didn’t like taking pain-relief pills.

“I was able to go home and smoke pot, and it was able to benefit my body, calm my body down,” said Kemp, who is 6-foot-10 and was upward of 230 pounds during his 14-year career of highlight-reel dunks, mostly with the Seattle SuperSonics. He said the drug seemed to help with inflammation in his knees and other joints.

Now Kemp, 52, owns a stake in a Seattle marijuana dispensary bearing his name.

In the two decades since the N.B.A. and its players’ union agreed to begin testing for marijuana, or cannabis, the drug’s perception has undergone a makeover in the United States, where it has been illegal for decades. Researchers don’t fully understand its possible medical benefits or harmful effects, but it has become legal in many states and some professional sports leagues are reconsidering punitive policies around its use. Many athletes say they use cannabis for pain management.

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