Former NBA commissioner David Stern has urged the league to review its ban on THC as it could prevent players from turning to opioids.

Stern spent 30 years at the NBA and during his tenure he introduced rules stipulating that players must undergo four random drug tests per season. He said players were all for it at the time, because they wanted to deter teammates from smoking weed at inappropriate times.

Yet he now believes it is time to revisit the ban on cannabis use in the wake of a robust body of evidence on its effectiveness at providing pain relief that has sprung up in recent years.

“In many cases in sports the opioid crisis begins with players being prescribed pills for their pain, and if there is another substance, whether it be CBD or THC that eases pain, then I’m all for it,” said Stern.

Last month the NBA suspended Phoenix Suns star Deandre Ayton for testing positive for a diuretic. Players have been known to use diuretics to flush THC out of their systems in fear of a drug test.

Former Chicago Bulls guard Jay Williams has previously estimated that around four in five NBA stars use marijuana. They find it preferable to Percocet and say it helps with inflammation, pain relief, and anxiety.

Earlier this year Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell was found with marijuana at New York’s LaGuardia Airport as he prepared to fly to Louisville. He claimed the marijuana was not his and he was merely fined.

Current commissioner Adam Silver, who replaced Stern in 2014 after serving as deputy commissioner for eight years, has previously said the league is open to permitting medical marijuana.

However, he has said that he wants more research to become available before making a conclusive decision, and he has decided against repealing the ban.

This week the rapper Drake – who emerged as arguably the world’s most prominent NBA fan thanks to his antics during the NBA Finals this year – became the latest celebrity to move into the cannabis industry. He has teamed up with Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corp. (TSE: WEED), the world’s largest cannabis company, to launch the More Life Growth Company in Toronto.

Drake owns 60% of the firm – named after his 2017 mixtape – and Canopy controls the other 40%. It will produce and distribute marijuana and focus on “wellness, discovery and personal growth”.