Larry Sanders: 'I believe in marijuana'

Bucks center Larry Sanders advocated for marijuana's legalization Friday, hours after it was announced he would be suspended five games by the NBA for its use.

Sanders said the drug's stigma is rooted in its illegal status and that once its prohibition is lifted "this all will go away."

"It's something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me," Sanders said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the Bucks' 102-90 loss at Chicago. "I will deal with the consequences from it.

"It's a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I'm going to use it."

Sanders said he has studied marijuana and knows the benefits.

"In a lot of ways we've been deprived," Sanders said, according to the Journal Sentinel. "You can't really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.

"The stigma is that it's illegal," Sanders added. "I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it's a banned substance. I will deal with the consequences and I apologize again to my fans for that."

Sanders isn't alone among professional athletes who have spoken out strongly on the benefits of marijuana.

New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie suggested in February before the Super Bowl that the NFL was wasting its time in banning the drug, although he later tweeted that he doesn't personally use it.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll also made headlines by saying he agreed with the notion the league should investigate medicinal marijuana to see whether it can help players.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state and for medicinal use in 20 more states.

Sanders said in a statement released by the team earlier Friday that he was penalized for using marijuana, his latest setback since signing a four-year extension worth about $44 million in the offseason.

"Larry Sanders has a responsibility to every person in our organization and our fans," the Bucks said in the news release. "We are all disappointed by the news of his suspension."

Sanders also apologized to the team and fans.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," he said in the release.

The 6-foot-11 Sanders is out for the season. He was injured Feb. 8 when Houston's James Harden elbowed him in the eye while the two were going for a rebound. He had surgery for a fractured right orbital bone.

Sanders also missed nearly two months earlier this season after tearing a ligament in his right thumb during a fight at a Milwaukee nightclub. He averaged 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23 games.