The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is comprised of retired National Football League (NFL) players that know firsthand that cannabis can help treat the health conditions that many players suffer from. Because of their firsthand experiences with the wellness benefits of the cannabis plant, members of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition are speaking out against the NFL’s cannabis prohibition policy via a message (embedded below) specifically directed towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
With the Super Bowl right around the corner, the message is very timely. The Uncle Cliffy team would like to send a huge hat tip to these gentlemen for standing up for compassion and fighting to free the plant. You can learn more about the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition via their website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
When it comes to the effort to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports, public views about cannabis are very important. After all, it’s the fans that buy the tickets to games, purchase league merchandise, and watch league broadcasts that generate profits for pro sports leagues.
In theory, if the fans support a change in professional sports leagues, the leagues should listen. You will be hardpressed to find something that sports fans support more than ending cannabis prohibition. The results of another poll were released this week which found a record level of support for cannabis legalization in America. Below is more information about it via a press release from our friends at NORML:
Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to polling data compiled by the Pew Research Center. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the firm, which has polled Americans’ views regarding legalization since 1969.
Support is strongest among African Americans (71 percent), Democrats (69 percent), and Independents (65 percent). Support was weakest among Republicans (43 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (38 percent). However, among self-identified Republicans under 40 years of age, 62 percent favor legalization.
Pew’s results are similar to those of other recent national polls. For instance, an October Gallup poll found that 64 percent of the public support making adult cannabis use legal. A Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday reports that 58 percent of voters nationwide back adult use legalization, and 91 percent believe that medical cannabis should be legal. That poll also reports that 70 percent of voters oppose federal interference in state marijuana policies.
This week the cannabis community experienced one of the biggest highs and one of the biggest lows in recent months. On Monday California launched adult-use cannabis sales via dozens of dispensaries spread across the state. By all accounts, the rollout of adult-use sales was a success in California, with no issues being reported.
But unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived, as later in the week United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would be rescinding an Obama-era policy that had provided protection for states that had legalized cannabis. The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the cannabis industry and activism movement, with many advocates wondering if it would lead to a crackdown by the federal government.
As it stands right now, the rescinding of the policy (known as the Cole memo) has not resulted in any changes in enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition. That may change in the future, but for now, things are the same as they were before the announcement in regards to federal interference in legal cannabis states. Again, that could change in the future, but the Uncle Cliffy team hopes that proves not to be the case.
Resistance to the announcement was very swift. Members of Congress, state and local lawmakers, and cannabis activists across the country made it very clear that not only do they oppose the decision by Jeff Sessions but also that they would relentlessly fight any federal enforcement in legal states. What does the announcement specifically mean for the sports cannabis movement? Will the sports cannabis movement be harmed by the change in policy? Should professional athletes be worried that they could become targets of federal enforcement?
League officials have regularly cited federal prohibition as justification for continued cannabis prohibition in professional sports. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) specifically cited Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis as to why they would not support any changes to NBA league policy at this time. That stance was expressed prior to the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, so it’s likely safe to assume that the NBPA will continue to support the status quo of testing players for cannabis use, and suspending them when they are found to have THC metabolites in their system.
As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out in the past, no player in the history of professional sports has ever been arrested by the federal government for a failed drug test due to cannabis use. It is absurd for anyone to suggest that professional athletes should be tested for cannabis use because of fears related to federal cannabis prohibition. It is extremely illogical to think that because an athlete has THC metabolites in their system that they will become the target of federal cannabis enforcement.
Professional athletes should not be scared by the recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, just as they shouldn’t have been scared by past anti-cannabis comments made by Jeff Sessions and other members of the Trump administration. Cannabis prohibition is just as harmful to society and professional athletes today as it was prior to Jeff Sessions’ announcement, and therefore the effort to free the plant MUST continue.
The sports cannabis movement should not only be unswayed by Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement, it should push forward with more passion now than ever before. Professional athletes need to continue to speak out in support of cannabis reform in sports and society and continue to refuse to stand by as people have their careers and lives ruined due to consuming a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Onward!
California voters legalized cannabis during the 2016 election. The possession and cultivation provisions of the successful initiative went into effect the day after the election. However, the industry portion of the initiative did not get implemented until the first day of 2018.
Adult-use cannabis sales started in California on January 1, 2018, and by all accounts, the launch was a success. California has now proven that a regulated system for adult-use sales can be implemented without any issues, just as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada have already done.
Many people have weighed in on the start of adult-use sales in California, including current NBA coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors. When asked about the recent launch in California, Kerr had the following to say per The Mercury News:
“I’m a proponent of it,” Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice.
“I do feel strongly that [marijuana] is a much better option than some of the prescription drugs and I know that it’s helping a lot of people, which is great.”
This is not the first time that Steve Kerr has expressed support for cannabis. Kerr has admitted to having used cannabis after back surgery to help deal with the pain associated with the surgery, and last October stated that he thinks that the NBA will eventually end cannabis prohibition. On both occasions coach Kerr expressed support for cannabis reform in professional sports.
With so many professional sports teams being located in California and other legal states, and the expressed public support from a growing number of professional sports community members such as Steve Kerr, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that pro sports leagues will listen and free the plant!
image via Flickr
Last year was a big year for the sports cannabis movement. An ever-increasing number of professional athletes, both current and retired, are joining the movement in an effort to free the plant in professional sports leagues as well as in society. What will 2018 bring? Will it be an even bigger year for the sports cannabis movement compared to 2017?
On the first day of 2018, the Uncle Cliffy team feels that it was important to look forward to the upcoming year. It’s anyone’s guess as to what pro sports leagues’ leadership will do, or not do when it comes to cannabis policy. The Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) will get on the right side of history and let their players make the safer choice if they want to.
When professional sports leagues choose to prohibit cannabis use by their players, the leagues are establishing cannabis policies based on political views and not science. Because of that, any political victories experienced in society have an impact on the effort to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports. 2018 is an election year and its already shaping up to be very promising for cannabis reform.
As of right now, there are 8 states that have legalized cannabis for adult use and 29 states that have legalized cannabis for medical use. Washington D.C. has also legalized cannabis for both medical and adult use. Multiple states are expected to vote on medical cannabis initiatives in 2018, as well as at least one state voting on an adult-use legalization initiative.
Oklahoma, Missouri, and Utah are all expected to vote on medical cannabis initiatives in 2018. Oklahoma’s initiative has already made the ballot, and advocates are waiting on Oklahoma’s Governor to decide if the vote on the initiative will take place during the primary election (June) or the general election (November).
Efforts in Missouri and Utah are currently gathering signatures in the hopes of placing medical cannabis on the ballot in November. All three states are home to professional sports teams.
Michigan activists turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures for an adult-use initiative in an attempt to make the November ballot. The initiative will be put in front of voters on Election Day if enough of the signatures are determined to be valid. Advocates in Ohio recently announced that they will also be pushing to get an adult-use initiative on the ballot in November. Michigan and Ohio are both home to several professional sports teams.
Every state that has legalized cannabis for adult use so far has done so via the citizen initiative process. However, multiple states are in the running in 2018 to be the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use via legislative action. Vermont and New Jersey both seem to be the most likely to legalize cannabis in 2018 via legislative action.
Vermont and New Jersey are not the official home of an NBA, NFL, or MLB team, but the New York Giants and New York Jets both play their home games in Metlife Stadium which are located in New Jersey. If either or both states legalize cannabis for adult use, it will be very significant and will help add to the sports cannabis movement’s momentum.
Efforts in other states are also underway, and the Uncle Cliffy team is rooting for all of them. Every state that reforms its cannabis laws increases the chances that professional sports leagues will do the same. Players want reform, fans want reform, and even members of team’s leadership and the sports media community want reform. 2018 will hopefully be the year that the sports cannabis movement reaches critical mass and puts enough pressure on the leagues that they free the plant!
2017 was a very big year for the sports cannabis movement. Below are the top 10 sports cannabis stories from this year (in no particular order).
1. Retired professional athletes continue to unite to push for cannabis reform
When retired professional athletes speak out in support of cannabis reform in professional sports they risk becoming victims of the stigma associated with cannabis. Retired athletes risk losing endorsement deals, league appearances, broadcasting opportunities, coaching opportunities, and more when they come out in support of freeing the plant.
Despite those risks, a growing number of retired professional athletes are coming out publicly in support of cannabis reform. Retired National Basketball Association (NBA) players such as Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson, John Salley, and Al Harrington have been very vocal in 2017 in calling for the NBA to get on the rights side of history. Retired National Football League (NFL) veterans like Eugene Monroe, Ricky Williams, Kyle Turley, Marvin Washington, Boo Williams, Nate Jackson, and Eben Britton have been pushing all year for reform in the NFL.
Retired athletes in other leagues like Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have stepped up big time in 2017 in the name of reform cannabis policies in professional sports. Organizations such as Athletes for Care have helped athletes from all professional sports leagues unite together to amplify their voices in calling for cannabis reform in professional sports.
2. Current athletes call for reform in the NBA and NFL
It takes a lot of courage to call for cannabis reform while still being an active player in a professional sports league. Doing so can result in players being typecast as ‘potheads’ which comes with a significant amount of unfair stigma. Two active players made headlines in 2017 in the NFL and NBA by expressing support for reform.
The first was Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves who expressed support for medical cannabis reform in the NBA. The second was Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan who not only called for cannabis reform in the NFL, but also wore custom cleats as part of the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats campaign. Morgan’s cleats supported the pro-cannabis non-profit Realm of Caring.
3. World Anti-Doping Agency announces that UFC fighters and other athletes will not be penalized for using CBD
The World Anti-Doping Agency announced in 2017 that starting next year CBD will no longer be listed as a banned substance, which means that UFC fighters and other athletes that are held to World Anti-Doping Agency’s testing standards can use CBD. CBD has been found to help treat ailments and conditions that many professional athletes suffer from.
In addition to allowing athletes to benefit from the wellness properties of CBD, the decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency is significant because it demonstrates that the World Anti-Doping Agency does not consider CBD to be a performance-enhancing drug.
CBD does provide wellness benefits to athletes but does not enhance athletic performance to such an extent that it warrants being categorized as a performance-enhancing drug. That’s a big deal because many have feared that CBD prohibition in professional sports would continue under the justification that CBD is performance enhancing.
4. Ex-NBA Commissioner David Stern publicly endorses cannabis reform in the NBA
While David Stern was the NBA’s commissioner he suspended players for cannabis use, including multiple suspensions handed down to Clifford Robinson. In an interview earlier this year, conducted by retired NBA player Al Harrington, Stern indicated that he has changed his mind, stating “I’m now at the point where, personally, I think [marijuana] probably should be removed from the ban list. I think there is universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal.”
The change of heart was certainly welcomed by cannabis advocates and made headlines around the world, but the message did not come with an apology to the NBA players that were victims of David Stern’s NBA prohibition policy. The Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that a sincere apology will come soon.
5. Dallas Cowboys leadership comes out in support of cannabis reform in the NFL
When it comes to NFL owners, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has always stood out in the crowd due to being so outspoken. When Jerry Jones talks, the sports world listens, including NFL league officials. So it was a very big deal when Jones spoke out in 2017 in support of cannabis reform in the NFL.
Jerry Jones was joined by Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, who also expressed support for cannabis reform in the league. NFL owners, league officials, and fans should all want players on the field competing, and not dressed in street clothes on the sidelines due to a cannabis suspension. That’s a point that Jerry Jones hammered home in 2017, and hopefully will continue to express early and often in 2018.
6. Polling shows that it is beyond time for professional sports leagues to end cannabis prohibition
2017 saw a number of polls released which demonstrated a significant amount of support for cannabis reform. 68% of poll participants in one poll expressed that if their favorite sports athlete consumed cannabis that it ‘makes no difference’ to the level of respect that they would have for the athlete. An additional 3% stated that they would have more respect.
Another poll found that an astounding 76.5% of sports media members polled expressed that cannabis prohibition should end in professional sports. A separate poll found that 54% of the public believes that professional athletes should not be prohibited from using cannabis if they live in a state where it is legal. Currently 8 states in America have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 29 states have legalized cannabis for medical use.
7. United States Congressman urges the NBA and NFL to end cannabis prohibition
United States Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has been a champion of cannabis reform in politics for a long time. He spearheaded the effort in Oregon’s Legislature in the early 1970’s to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize cannabis. Blumenauer has either introduced, co-sponsored, and/or endorsed every cannabis reform bill in Congress since he became a Congressman in 1996.
This year Congressman Blumenauer was interviewed by TMZ, and during the interview, Earl Blumenauer stated (in regards to cannabis in professional sports), “It’s much less damaging than the opioids, the painkillers, the shots, the pills … and it’s time professional sports stops punishing them but works with them.” Blumenauer pointed out that 2/3rds of Americans have legal access to medical cannabis and that to ban NBA and NFL players from using medical cannabis is basically treating them like “second-class citizens.”
8. The PGA increases its cannabis drug-testing threshold
Some sports leagues default to the World Anti-Doping Agency standard for cannabis metabolite drug testing thresholds, while other professional sports leagues set their own standards. The MLB has a THC metabolite threshold of 50 ng/mL, the NFL has a threshold of 35 ng/mL, and the NBA has a threshold of just 15 ng/mL.
The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) increased its THC metabolite threshold ten fold in 2017, raising the limit from 15 ng/mL to 150 ng/mL. To put things into perspective, Olympic athletes are also held to the standard of 150 ng/mL. The increase in the PGA’s testing threshold is not as good as removing the prohibition on cannabis use altogether, but it’s a welcomed step in the right direction.
9. NBA commissioner Adam Silver states that he is ‘open’ to medical cannabis reform in the NBA
In a report from earlier this year, current NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed an openness to medical cannabis reform in the NBA. Silver stated, “My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it.”
Commissioner Silver made the comments to members of the media while visiting Israel as part of the Basketball Without Borders program. Adam Silver has stated a number of times in the past that the NBA prohibition policy would remain in effect, but his comments while he was abroad are encouraging and hopefully will lead to constructive conversations about cannabis reform in the NBA in 2018.
10. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes inaccurate comments about cannabis to justify league prohibition
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a polarizing figure in the sports world. In the sports cannabis world specifically, he is absolutely on the wrong side of history. In April 2017 Goodell claimed that cannabis has no medical benefits, and went even further to say that cannabis use is harmful to NFL players. He also suggested that allowing NFL players to consume cannabis could make the league liable for ‘negative consequences’ that could occur from cannabis use.
Those statements were quickly debunked by the Uncle Cliffy team. Cannabis provides a number of medical benefits, including benefits specifically for NFL players that suffer from pain and brain injuries. Cannabis also has been shown to reduce opioid consumption, which is something that the NFL should absolutely want to embrace. Goodell’s denial of cannabis’ medical benefits while the NFL simultaneously embraces much more harmful substances like alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs is extremely hypocritical.
Professional athletes can violate league cannabis policies in two ways. The first is by failing a drug test. Each major professional sports league in America has its own THC metabolite threshold for drug testing. Major League Baseball (MLB) has a threshold of 50 ng/mL. The National Football League (NFL) has a threshold of 35 ng/mL and the National Basketball Association (NBA) has a threshold of just 15 ng/mL. If players cross that threshold, they will have failed the drug test.
To put those thresholds into perspective, Olympic athletes are held to a standard of 150 ng/mL. Ideally, there would be no threshold at all. The National Hockey League (NHL) does not list cannabis on its list of banned substances, although NHL players could in theory still be punished for cannabis via mandatory entry into the NHL’s substance-abuse program.
The second way that athletes can be found as having violated league cannabis policy is if they are convicted of a cannabis offense while away from their team. This particular violation is extremely problematic, as the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out before. Federal and state-level cannabis prohibition laws are forms of institutional racism, as available data clearly demonstrates. One of the many examples that prove that point can be found in Buffalo, New York (Clifford Robinson’s hometown). Despite Caucasians consuming cannabis at a higher rate in Buffalo, African Americans are 7 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis.
If an African American athlete is seven times more likely to be arrested for cannabis when away from their team, and leagues punish players that are convicted of cannabis offenses, then African American players are therefore seven times more likely to be punished for cannabis by their leagues compared to Caucasian players. That perpetuation of institutional racism is obviously unacceptable, which is why the Uncle Cliffy team highlights the injustice involved on a frequent basis (and will continue to do so!).
Leadership in professional sports leagues, and members of the media, often try to downplay the seriousness of cannabis prohibition in sports by cracking jokes and making cannabis consuming athletes out to be ‘potheads.’ But cannabis prohibition is far from a laughing matter. Professional athletes are punished for cannabis in many ways, some being more obvious than others, but with all forms of punishment being harmful and unjust. Below are ten ways that professional athletes are punished because of sports leagues’ cannabis prohibition policies.
The punishment that professional athletes face that sports fans are most familiar with is a suspension. A player is prohibited from competing when they are found to have consumed cannabis or if they are convicted of a cannabis offense when away from their teams. Suspensions vary from league to league, and it depends on the athlete’s prior history with cannabis policy violations.
Professional sports league officials and team owners should want their players on the field or court, and not to be wearing street clothes when the game starts. That’s especially true when the reason for the suspension is that the player was found to have consumed or possessed a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol.
2. Public Shaming
In America, people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But when it comes to professional athletes and cannabis, the opposite is true. Long before a professional athlete is afforded due process, major media outlets shame them relentlessly. So much so that the stigma carries over to the locker room and players have to deal with shaming and shunning from their fellow teammates.
Even if a league ultimately decides to not take action against an athlete that is involved in a situation that includes cannabis, they are blasted on sports media outlets and mainstream media outlets over and over. Athletes are portrayed as having let down their teams, their coaches, and their families, which is blatant hypocrisy given sports leagues’ embracing of substances that are exponentially more harmful.
3. Locked out of Coaching Opportunites
Anyone who has been paying attention has likely noticed that athletes that have been associated with cannabis have not ended up in coaching positions. This form of punishment is a prime example of how athletes have to deal with the stigma that comes with being associated with cannabis well after their playing days are over. It often doesn’t matter how successful or knowledgeable an athlete is, if they are known for being a cannabis consumer, they are very rarely offered coaching positions in professional sports leagues.
4. No Endorsements
Professional athletes have massive followings and access to enormous platforms that amplify their voices. Because of that, professional athletes are frequently signed up to endorse various products and services. However, if an athlete has been publicly shamed for their cannabis use, it makes companies hesitant to work with them.
For many cannabis consuming athletes, endorsement deals are non-existent, no matter how popular they are in the markets they competed in. For athletes that already have endorsement deals in place, a cannabis offense or association with the cannabis plant can result in those deals being terminated, such as in the case of prolific Olympic champion Michael Phelps.
5. Broadcasting Opportunities Remain Elusive
One position in professional sports that retired athletes commonly fill is that of a broadcaster. Broadcaster positions exist on television and radio and come in many forms. While it’s understandable that not everyone gets a full-time gig in broadcasting after they retire from professional sports, popular players are almost always invited to at least participate in some form of broadcasting, even if it’s just for broadcast appearances.
However, professional athletes that have been branded with the ‘cannabis scarlet letter’ are rarely offered such opportunities, no matter how successful they were as an athlete, or how popular they are among team fanbases. It’s obviously not a coincidence, whether teams, leagues, and networks want to admit it or not.
6. No Recognition for Accomplishments
Many players that are associated with cannabis are pushed out of professional sports before they are able to accumulate noteworthy accomplishments. However, in the rare instances when a player is able to overcome the stigma and achieve despite being associated with cannabis, those achievements are rarely recognized by teams and leagues.
All professional sports teams recognize their best athletes in one way or another, with one of the most common ways being the retirement of a player’s jersey number. But if an elite athlete is associated with cannabis, they are virtually never recognized in such a way. This is true even when the athlete was an all-star, even when they won league honors, and even when they still rank among the top players in statistical categories for the team(s) that they played for.
7. Harmed Health
Cannabis has undeniable wellness benefits. A number of studies and personal experiences have found that to be the case. Anyone who says otherwise has obviously not looked at the growing body of evidence that cannabis is indeed medicine. Studies have also found that cannabis can help athletes reduce their use of harmful opioids and other pharmaceuticals.
Yet, despite cannabis’ obvious medical benefits, leagues like the NFL and NBA do not allow any medical exceptions for cannabis use. Even players like Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, who cannot use opioids because he had part of his intestine surgically removed due to suffering from Crohn’s disease, are punished with enormous suspensions for using cannabis, even though it’s a proven medicine.
Professional athletes can use opioids, other pharmaceuticals, and alcohol and they will not be punished. In fact, leagues embrace those substances and often push them on players while prohibiting cannabis, despite the fact that those substances are exponentially more harmful than cannabis. Obvious such policies and practices are based on political opinions, and not on science and compassion.
8. Robbed of the Chance to Own a Part of History
Athletes should be measured by the content of their character and their skills in competition, and not based on the amount of THC metabolites that they have in their system. If an athlete is too hurt to compete, or their skill level is such that they don’t make a team, so be it. No one should argue to the contrary.
However, if the only reason that an athlete is not allowed to compete is because of cannabis consumption or they were caught with cannabis, that is a huge injustice. By taking players out of competition, players are being robbed of a chance to own a part of history. At the least, they are robbed of the moments and statistics that they would have otherwise accumulated during competition.
But at the worst, a cannabis suspension could cost a player a shot at a championship. It could also cost an athlete their entire career in the case of those that faced a level of stigma so great that they walked away or were forced away from the sport that they loved and dedicated their lives to.
9. Reduced Contracts
Professional athletes that are suspended for cannabis lose money upfront because of how athletes are paid. Professional athletes are paid game checks, and if they do not compete in a game due to a suspension, they are not paid.
But that is not the only way that professional athletes are punished financially. Athletes that are associated with cannabis often see contract offers that are lower than anticipated, or even worse, they are not offered any contract offers at all.
10. League Intimidation
Even if an athlete does not consume cannabis, they can still face a tremendous level of stigma from professional sports leagues if they express support for cannabis reform. A prime example of that would be what happened to Chicago Bears lineman Kyle Long earlier this year.
After having posted a snarky pro-cannabis tweet, Kyle Long was almost immediately hit with a ‘random’ drug test by the NFL. Kyle Long ultimately passed the drug test, but it was clear that the intent of the drug test was to send a chilling effect towards Mr. Long and other players that would speak out against the NFL’s cannabis prohibition policy. No one, professional athletes included, should ever have to deal with that type of intimidation.
The National Football League’s (NFL) current policy is such that when a player is convicted of a cannabis possession offense that player is suspended by the NFL. One example of that, as previously mentioned by the Uncle Cliffy team, was Green Bay Packers receiver Geronimo Allison. Allison was suspended by the NFL after being caught with a personal amount of cannabis in Wisconsin.
Had Geronimo Allison been caught with a personal amount of cannabis in Colorado, Washington State, Washington D.C., Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, or Massachusetts he would have been free to go on his way and never would have been suspended. Had Geronimo Allison been a registered medical cannabis patient in the more than two dozen states that have legalized cannabis for medical use and been caught with a personal amount of cannabis, he also would not have received any punishment from law enforcement or the NFL.
But because Geronimo Allison was caught in a prohibition state, he was convicted of a cannabis offense, and then suspended by the NFL. Allison was convicted of violating a public policy (and with it, an NFL policy) that involves institutional racism. As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out many times in the past, cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on minority communities.
Another Green Bay Packers player was recently involved in a similar situation as Mr. Allison. Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks was charged this week with cannabis possession after he was previously pulled over for speeding and the investigating officer subsequently found a personal amount of cannabis in Kendricks’ vehicle.
Kendricks will likely plead guilty to the cannabis charge. As with Geronimo Allison’s situation, had Lance Kendricks been caught with a personal amount of cannabis in a legal state he would have been free to go on with his day. But since he was caught in Wisconsin, which prohibits cannabis, he was charged.
Wisconsin’s cannabis prohibition policy is particularly harmful to the African American community. Nationally, African Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis compared to Caucasians, even though consumption rates are relatively the same between races. In Wisconsin, African Americans are six times as likely to be arrested for cannabis.
If Lance Kendricks does plead guilty to the cannabis charge, he will likely face the same penalty from the NFL that his teammate did. If the NFL suspends Kendricks, it will once again be perpetuating institutional racism. If an African American NFL player (such as Lance Kendricks) is six times as likely to be arrested for cannabis off the field, then he is also six times as likely to be suspended by the NFL because of cannabis.
There is no debating that fact. The math clearly speaks for itself. What is likely to happen to Lance Kendricks (and has already happened to Geronimo Allison and many others), is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. It should serve as an unfortunate example of why NFL players need to demand a complete end to cannabis prohibition in the league, and why athletes in other leagues should demand nothing short of the same thing.
The sports cannabis movement is growing every day. More and more athletes and other members of the professional sports community are coming out publicly in support of cannabis reform, which is a great thing. As the momentum builds so does the pressure on professional sports leagues to get on the right side of history. Hopefully these leagues free the plant sooner rather than later.
Tomorrow will likely be a big day for the sports cannabis movement. It appears that Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan is going to be doing something this Sunday that is particularly inspirational. Morgan is reportedly going to be wearing custom cleats tomorrow that promote cannabis, according to a tweet by the pro-cannabis non-profit Realm of Caring. Tennessee reporter Jason Wolf also tweeted that the cleats would be worn this Sunday by Derrick Morgan. Below is a picture of them, along with the Realm of Caring tweet:
The @NFL is raising awareness for charities through the #MyCauseMyCleats drive. Derrick Morgan of the @Titans is RoC-ing a pair of cleats with our logo! Tune in this Sunday at 11:00 MST to the Titan’s game to see them in action! pic.twitter.com/xSnASm4zB6
— Realm of Caring (@realmofcaring) November 29, 2017
The cleats are being worn as part of the NFL’s ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ campaign, a description of is below via NFL.com:
NFL players will have the chance to share the causes that are important to them during all Week 13 games, as part of the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign. The initiative is a culmination of 18 months of collaborative work between the NFL and players across the league, and it includes an online storytelling platform, in partnership with The Players’ Tribune.
The Uncle Cliffy team sincerely hopes that Morgan is allowed to wear the cleats, that the NFL will not stand in his way, and that the message of cannabis’ healing properties reaches as many people as possible. Below is more information about the cause that Derrick Morgan is supporting, Realm of Caring, via their website:
The Realm of Caring Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We have 16 full and part time staff members supporting over 30,000 clients throughout the U.S. and the world.
The Realm of Caring Foundation was informally established by the Stanley Brothers, Paige Figi, and Heather Jackson. Paige’s daughter, Charlotte, and Heather’s son, Zaki, were the first two success stories using Charlotte’s Web™ in early 2012. After receiving several inquiries from families seeking help around the world, the group recognized the need to create a formal organization to not only collect research and data on individuals using cannabis products, but to also educate and advocate about this often misunderstood form of therapy.
The Stanleys have since transitioned away from the Realm of Caring to focus their efforts on production and new product development. Paige has fulfilled a needed legislative role serving as Executive Director of Coalition for Access Now, a 501c4 organization committed to educating the public and lawmakers on the health benefits associated with natural therapies derived from cannabis for chronic health conditions. Heather is serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Realm of Caring, a 501c3 entity.
The Realm of Caring Foundation was formally established on 8/13/13, and has received its 501c3 designation as a recognized non-profit entity. We continue with the same mission and vision that we always have. Our advocacy work has been featured in media outlets across the country including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, NBC, and two CNN specials hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Professional sports leagues each have their own cannabis testing policies. Each individual policy can be evaluated based on two factors – what the threshold is for failing a drug test for cannabis, and what the punishment is for a failed test. Because of the two different factors, it’s not exactly straightforward to answer the question ‘which professional sports league has the harshest cannabis policy?’
From a purely testing threshold standpoint, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has the strictest policy with a THC metabolite threshold of 15 ng/mL. To put that into perspective, Olympic athletes are held to a threshold of 150 ng/mL (10 times the NBA threshold). THC metabolites indicate cannabis use and can stay in a person’s system for as long as 100 days after cannabis consumption. The NBA starts suspending a player after a third offense, with a $25,000 fine for a second failed test. NBA players are subjected to four random drug tests a season, which is more than any of the other major American professional sports leagues.
From a punishment standpoint, the designation for harshest policy would go to the National Football League (NFL) which puts a player in a substance-abuse program after one failed test but then starts suspending the player after a second failed drug test. The NFL’s current THC metabolite threshold is 35 ng/mL but was 15 ng/mL until fairly recently.
Major League Baseball has a threshold of 50 ng/mL but only suspends players that “flagrantly disregard” the league’s cannabis policy. The least-strict cannabis policy among America’s professional sports leagues is the National Hockey League (NHL), which does not list cannabis as a banned substance. But, that does not necessarily mean that NHL players cannot be penalized for cannabis use, as described by retired NHL veteran Riley Cote in an article for SportsNet:
According to Cote, a player who tests positive for a hard “street drug” such as ecstasy or cocaine will likely have to enter the league substance-abuse program for about a month. But a player who tests positive for THC, the primary intoxicant obtained from cannabis, will only receive a call. Either way, the test results aren’t revealed publicly, whereas a positive result for performance-enhancing drugs would be.
That approach, Cotes says, keeps most positive tests for marijuana use under wraps.
“Nobody I’ve heard of has tested positive strictly for THC and been thrown in the substance-abuse program,” says Cote. (Otherwise, Cote adds, he’d have spent a fair share of his NHL days in the program.)
The NHL’s policy is a much more sensible approach compared to other professional sports leagues. However, that’s not to say that it cannot be improved upon. For starters, the policy is extremely subjective. NHL players do not normally get anything more than a phone call for testing positive for THC metabolites, but that’s not to say that it will automatically always be the case. Some chance still exists that a player could be thrown into a substance-abuse program, even if the cannabis use does not affect the player’s performance in competition, which is obviously unacceptable.
If it’s true that NHL players are not punished solely for cannabis use, why not have a policy that completely reflects it? In failing to do so, the NHL can target players for punishment as the league sees fit. Even the slight chance that selective enforcement could occur should be completely eliminated.
What would be even better than codifying the previously described NHL policy improvement would be if the NHL actually embraced cannabis as a medicine. Cannabis could help NHL players deal with a number of ailments, as described by Riley Cote in the same article for SportsNet:
“It’s all about increasing quality of life. It’s about helping these guys wake up the next morning, where they can feel functional enough, good enough, [that] they can enjoy their family and not worry about the pain and anxiety — that vicious cycle that generally leads to mental health issues.”
The NHL’s cannabis policy is good, but it’s not as good as it could/should be. The NHL currently has 7 franchises in Canada, a nation which is expected to legalize cannabis in the middle of next year. Multiple NHL teams are located in American states that have legalized cannabis for adult and/or medical use. The NHL, along with all other professional sports leagues, need to get on the right side of history and end cannabis prohibition. If a player cannot be penalized in society for cannabis use, they should not be penalized by their professional sports league employer.