The stresses and injuries that come with being a professional athlete can be significant. Competing at the highest level of any sport can take a mental toll on even the most focused, seasoned professional athlete. The amount of adrenaline involved is off the charts, which can be extremely stressful to deal with, and professional athletes need ways to unwind after competition and practice.
Going up against other world class athletes in contact sports almost always results in competitors experiencing some type of injury, if not multiple injuries. In some sports, the pain that goes along with common injuries can be very severe. Even in sports that don’t involve contact with other athletes, injuries can still occur. At the very least athletes experience pains and injuries related to wear and tear on their bodies if they train/compete long enough.
Relaxing and restoring from competition and everything that goes with it can take many different forms depending on the athlete. It is no secret that many athletes turn to alcohol to relax, and opioids or other pharmaceuticals to treat their health conditions. If that’s what grown athletes choose to do, that is certainly their prerogative, but athletes should also be able to make the safer choice and consume cannabis if they choose to do so.
Alcohol, opioids, and other pharmaceuticals are legal to use in professional sports leagues, and in many cases, widely embraced. Advertising for alcohol can be found all over arenas and stadiums, as well as during professional league broadcasts. Opioids are dispensed at alarming rates by team doctors, and athletes are told to avoid cannabis at all costs, even for medical purposes. Yet at the same time the use of more harmful pharmaceuticals are often encouraged to treat various conditions.
A study from 2015 found that cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol. Cannabis opponents within professional sports leagues have yet to directly address this scientific fact. If professional sports leagues truly relied on science when crafting league banned substance policies, there is no way that cannabis would be on the list of banned substances while alcohol remains permitted.
As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out before, cannabis has been the subject of more studies than Toradol, Hydrocodone, and Tylenol – combined. All three of those substances are widely used in professional sports leagues, and while all of them are considered to have been adequately studied, reform opponents in leagues often claim that ‘there hasn’t been enough studies on cannabis.’ That claim is obviously false, proven by math alone.
Cannabis is safer than many pharmaceutical drugs that players use for everything from anxiety to sleep assistance. Common side effects for pharmaceutical grade sleep medications include dizziness, weakness, feeling “drugged” or light-headed, loss of coordination, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, headache, and muscle pain. Despite those common side effects, the use of pharmaceutical sleep aids by athletes is perfectly fine in professional sports leagues. However, cannabis use is prohibited – no exceptions. Cannabis helps treat muscle pain, not cause it, but somehow it continues to be banned by leagues like the NFL and NBA. How does that make any sense?
Whether it’s to relax or for restoring purposes, cannabis is a safer, and often times more effective, choice for professional athletes. Athletes that are looking for something to help them relax and/or recover from injury should give strong consideration to using cannabis. Also, professional sports leagues should recognize the science involved and treat cannabis like they do other substances that are much more harmful. The Uncle Cliffy team is by no means saying that everyone should have to use cannabis, but they should be allowed to do so if they want to as long as the use is conducted in a responsible fashion.
Cannabis consumption of any kind is prohibited in most professional sports, including the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB). Cannabis prohibition is a failed policy whether it’s in professional sports or society, and is very harmful to those that have to deal with prohibition’s unfair consequences.
Many upstanding professional athletes have had their careers hindered, or even derailed, because of cannabis prohibition. Athletes should be measure by their physical skills and moral character, and not by the level of cannabinoids in their system. Below are ten reasons why professional sports leagues should get with the times and end cannabis prohibition.
1. Because cannabis is safer than substances that leagues currently embraces
Alcohol and opioid painkillers are used widely by professional athletes, and embraced by professional sports leagues. Cannabis has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Opioid addiction is a major problem in professional sports leagues, due in large part to how often painkillers are pushed on players. As many as 40 people die every day in America from opioid based painkillers. Cannabis has never killed anyone.
2. Because cannabis helps suffering players
Athletes get hurt. If you play sports long enough, you will incur injuries either from contact with another player or surface, or from wear and tear. There’s simply no way around it. Cannabis has been found to be a proven medicine that can effectively treat all types of ailments that athletes suffer from, including and especially chronic pain. Cannabis is one of the most studied substances in America, with over 23,000+ medical papers published about the topic to date. Cannabis is medicine. That’s an undeniable fact.
3. Because consumption will not go away, it’s just pushed into the shadows
Cannabis has been prohibited in professional sports for many years now, yet consumption rates are still significantly high (no pun intended). That’s not a bad thing. Cannabis consumption is going to occur regardless of if it’s prohibited or not, the only difference is that players will be doing it in secret under prohibition, and likely with little to no thought as to what type of cannabis or consumption method is best for their situation. Legalization pulls that consumption out of the shadows, which is an undeniably better approach for players’ health.
4. Because the punishment doesn’t fit ‘the crime’
There are numerous professional athletes, Cliff Robinson included, that have been penalized for making the safer choice to consume cannabis instead of alcohol or pharmaceutical painkillers. These athletes were prevented from competing in a sport that they had dedicated their lives to, all because they chose to consume a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol. If the only violation is that an athlete was caught possessing and/or consuming cannabis, a substance that is safer than alcohol and painkillers, how is it justified that the athlete should be prevented from competing? If the athlete was not found to be harming another human in any way, how is justified to penalize them in so harsh a manner as to keep them from coming to work and/or fining them large sums of money?
5. Because it will help combat the opioid epidemic in pro sports
644 NFL players were surveyed in 2010 about opioid use. Per the survey, ‘Over half (52%) used opioids during their NFL career with 71% reporting misuse. Additionally, 15% of NFL misusers currently misused vs. 5% among players who used just as prescribed during their NFL career. Prevalence of current opioid use was 7%–3 times the rate of the general population.’ That is a problem that is found throughout professional sports, and the problem seems to grow with every passing year. Patients using medical cannabis to control chronic pain reported a 64% reduction in opioid use, per a University of Michigan study. If professional sports leagues are serious about their desire to reduce opioid abuse among players, which we here at Uncle Cliffy Sports Cannabis sincerely hope is the case, removing cannabis as a banned substance would significantly help achieve the goal.
6. Because cannabis prohibition is a racist, failed policy
Cannabis prohibition disproportionately affects minorities. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) African Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people, even though consumption rates are roughly the same for both races. In St. Louis specifically, one study found that African Americans were arrested 18 times more often than white people for cannabis. This is tremendously important because many sports leagues treat a legal cannabis issue such as an arrest as grounds for league sanctions. By enforcing cannabis prohibition in that manner, professional sports leagues are perpetuating the systematic racism that is so ingrained in America’s criminal justice system. If leagues truly embraced diversity and equality, they would get on the right side of history and remove cannabis as a banned substance.
7. Because fans support cannabis reform
Gallup has been asking Americans if they support cannabis legalization since 1969. Back then, only 12% of Americans that participated in the survey supported cannabis legalization. That number has since steadily surged to an all-time high of 60% this year. Support is even greater for the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Professional sports leagues need to recognize that reforming cannabis policies in their leagues is not a risky move. After all, polling consistently has shown that most Americans would welcome such a move.
8. Because so many teams are located in states/districts that are legal
There are many NFL, NBA, and MLB teams located in states (and D.C.) that have voted to legalize cannabis for adult use. Those teams are: Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners, Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards. This of course doesn’t even include states that have legalized medical cannabis, nor does it include other professional sports leagues who have teams or hold competitions in legal states.
9. Because doctors and law enforcement support it
Doctors for Cannabis Regulation is making a big push for cannabis reform in sports. The doctors that help lead the organization are established and very much respected in the medical community. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is an organization comprised of current and retired members of law enforcement who have witnessed first hand the failures of cannabis prohibition, and therefore fight to end cannabis prohibition wherever it may exist. Common reasons that cannabis opponents offer up as to why they oppose cannabis reform (including in sports) is because it’s bad for peoples’ health and it’s illegal. It’s important for sports leagues to know that doctors and cops are among those leading the charge to reform cannabis laws in America, which includes professional sports leagues.
10. The NHL has done it, and the sky is still intact
The National Hockey League (NHL) does not include cannabis on its list of banned substances. This sensible approach to cannabis policy is something that other professional sports leagues should adopt, and is definitive proof that removing cannabis as a banned substance does not result in the downfall of a sport or its players.
image via ThirdMonk.net