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Former NBA Star Cliff 'Uncle Spliffy' Robinson Passes in Potland

Cliff Robinson (aka Uncle Cliffy) liked to blaze when he played for the Trailblazers in Portland from 1989 to 1997.

The cannabis community is mourning the death of former NBA All-Star Cliff Robinson, who was known as Uncle Spliffy in Portland, where he began his career as a Trail Blazer. He was 53.

His Uncle Spliffy product line was unveiled in 2017 at Portland dispensaries.

In 2016, Robinson told Blazer's Edge why he used cannabis as a player:

"For me, it was helpful because pharmaceutical drugs… they didn’t do well. My stomach was always sensitive to that kind of stuff, so I pretty much stayed away from it. I used [cannabis] as a tool to calm my stomach; also as a way to just kind of calm my nerves from the mental stress over the course of an NBA season. Everything that they gave us, you had to make sure you ate before you took it, so I was always a little leery of that kind of stuff."

Fellow former professional athlete Marvin Washington, who played in the NFL and owns a CBD company Iso-Sport, tells CelebStoner:

"Cliff Robinson was a wonderful person, a beautiful basketball player and a friend. When the story of cannabis and athletes is told, his name will be mentioned, as he was fighting this fight for over two decades and was instrumental in making Oregon a first mover in states for adult use."

Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2014 and medical use in 1998. Anthony Johnson, who directed the Measure 91 campaign in 2014, tells CelebStoner:

"Cliff became a staple at various cannabis events, allowing folks to utilize his name and presence to promote the cause of legalization. He made it a personal mission to change sports leagues' cannabis policies and to shatter the 'lazy stoner' stereotype, and he helped make great progress on both fronts. He was always gracious with fans, taking time for photos and to chat with them. His smile lit up the world and it was contagious."

Robinson's NBA Career and Arrests

It spanned 19 seasons, averaging 14 points per game. After eight years in Portland - he was an All-Star in 1994 when he averaged 20 ppg - the 6-10 hoopster was traded to Phoenix, Detroit and Golden State before ending his career in New Jersey in 2007. Born in Buffalo, Robinson attended the University of Conneticut, where he excelled on the basketball team. Robinson was selected by the Blazers in the second round of the 1989 NBA draft.

Robinson was arrested for marijuana possession twice: in Portland in 1997 and in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2001; in 2005 and 2006, he violated the NBA's drug policy by failing drugs tests for marijuana. Robinson was suspended each time by the league. 

The Portland arrest was particularly egregious. Robinson, his brother and two friends were in Robinson's Humvee when it was stopped by a police roadblock. The four men had paintball guns in the vehicle. 

"The next thing I knew, there were 10 cop cars around us with guns pointing at us," Robinson said at the time. "I didn’t know what’s going on. I was totally scared. This had never happened to me before."

Robinson was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, which he said was his brother's.

After a Change.org campaign was launched earlier this year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler "issued a formal apology" to Robinson for "the racial profiling incident," Chris Young explained in a "victory" update. 

"I'm so glad that Cliff got an apology from Portland's mayor before he passed," adds Johnson.

Over the last few years Robinson's healthy had deteriorated. In 2017, he suffered a stroke. In 2019, he had surgery for cancer. 

"Unfortunately, every time he was about to launch a business venture, he seemed to suffer a health emergency," Johnson says. Robinson's proposed Uncle Spliffy's shop never opened.

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.