The National Football League (NFL) currently prohibits cannabis consumption by players with zero exceptions. The NFL’s drug test threshold for cannabis is 35 ng/mL of THC metabolites, which is less than Major League Baseball (50 ng/mL) and far less than the standard that Olympic athletes are held to (150 ng/mL).
Over two dozen states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes beyond just low-THC/high-CBD, and all but four states have reformed their cannabis laws to at least allow low-THC/high-CBD possession in limited circumstances. Nine states have passed measures to legalize cannabis for adult-use. Washington D.C. has legalized cannabis for both medical and adult-use.
Of the four states that still completely prohibit cannabis (Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and South Dakota) none of them have an NFL team. Literally, every state and district that NFL teams are located have more progressive cannabis policies than the NFL itself. Why does the NFL continue to cling to cannabis prohibition? Cannabis prohibition provides zero benefits to the NFL and it can be easily argued that cannabis prohibition is bad for the NFL and its players.
By not allowing NFL players to make the safer choice and use cannabis, the NFL is pushing players towards much more harmful substances, most notably addictive opioids. Increased access to cannabis has been associated with significant reductions in opioid use, which is something that the NFL should be embracing given its ongoing issues related to opioid addiction and abuse by current and former players.
Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that the NFL widely embraces. In addition to players being allowed to consume alcohol, the NFL is heavily sponsored by the alcohol industry. The NFL’s prohibition on cannabis in the name of ‘player safety’ while they simultaneously embrace alcohol and pharmaceuticals is blatant hypocrisy.
An unfortunate example of that hypocrisy played out recently with the NFL’s denial of a medical cannabis exemption request by NFL running back Mike James. James had applied for a therapeutic use exemption with the NFL which is a process meant to help players that require the use of a banned substance to treat a diagnosed medical problem.
James, who had been taking harmful pharmaceuticals to treat his chronic pain since 2013, found relief after using medical cannabis. He was able to beat his addiction to opioids, which improved his health and quality of life. “I never had something where I could be coherent and still have pain relief.” James said according to CNN.
Now James is faced with three choices. He can either go back to using opioids, continue to use cannabis and risk his career, or he can retire from the NFL. Obviously, none of those options are acceptable. The NFL should have compassion for Mike James and other suffering players and at the least allow them to be exempt from the NFL’s cannabis policy, or even better, to end cannabis prohibition altogether.
The fans of the NFL want to see their players on the field competing, and not serving a suspension because they decided to use a substance that is safer than alcohol and most pharmaceutical drugs. NFL players should only be prevented from competing if they are too hurt to play or they have done something truly wrong. Suspending them for cannabis takes away from the NFL’s product and often ruins players’ careers.
NFL cannabis prohibition perpetuates institutional racism. Cannabis reform in the NFL has the support of fans, players, and even members of sports media according to polling. The NFL needs to care more about the well-being of its players and get on the right side of history. Cannabis is medicine and cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, both inside and outside of NFL stadiums. Shame on the NFL for denying Mike James’ request and a huge hat tip to James for having the courage to speak out. Free the plant!
Unless you were living under a rock last weekend you know that it was Super Bowl weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in a very exciting game. Super Bowl weekend is one of the most celebrated weekends of the year in the United States, with family and friends gathering all over the country to watch the big game.
Super Bowl weekend is as American as apple pie. Another thing that is becoming as American as apple pie according to new data from last weekend is legal cannabis. Legal cannabis sales surged on Super Bowl weekend, with NFL fans stocking up before attending various gatherings. Per Green Market Report:
The Super Bowl turned into a bonus day of sales for cannabis dispensaries. According to data from software company Flowhub, retailers saw a 32% increase in cannabis sales for the 2018 Super Bowl weekend versus last year’s Super Bowl weekend.
Compared to typical weekend sales, Super Bowl weekend sales jumped 7% and transactions climbed by 12%. Flowhub said that transaction sizes were getting smaller, but the volume of people buying marijuana for the celebration had increased.
“The rise in sales over Super Bowl weekend shows that Americans are continuing to incorporate cannabis into these national celebrations just as they would beer or even guacamole,” said Flowhub CEO Kyle Sherman. “Marijuana is becoming part of the fabric of American society and our national pastimes. I think we will continue to see this trend grow as legalization continues to spread.”
This year’s jump in sales builds on a similar trend from last year. During last year’s Super Bowl weekend legal cannabis sales experienced a 40% jump compared to the same weekend the year prior. The recent statistical report demonstrates that the relationship between cannabis and sports is strong, and getting stronger with every passing year.
For the purpose of cannabis reform in the NFL specifically, this data is important because it highlights how popular cannabis consumption is among NFL fans. That popularity in consumption translates to support for cannabis reform in the NFL among the NFL’s fanbase as proven by several polls which have found that fans support allowing NFL players to consume cannabis. Polling also shows that players themselves, as well as members of sports media, also support cannabis reform.
It’s beyond time that the NFL and the leadership of other professional sports leagues recognize that prohibition has failed and to respect the overwhelming level of support for reform. Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, and safer than a lot of other substances that the NFL and other leagues embrace. The NFL and other leagues need to free the plant.
It is officially Super Bowl week in the National Football League (NFL) and unless you have been living under a rock then you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots this weekend for the NFL title. The big game presents an opportunity for friends and family to get together, to enjoy food, to have some laughs, and hopefully to see a very competitive football game.
The Super Bowl also presents an opportunity for people inside and outside of the NFL to reflect on the league’s cannabis prohibition policy. Currently, the NFL prohibits all forms of cannabis consumption, even when the consumption is in a legal state, and even when the consumption is medical in nature. That is a policy that the Uncle Cliffy team has very publicly opposed, and we will continue to do so until the NFL takes steps to free the plant.
A growing number of current and retired NFL players have been calling on the league to end cannabis prohibition altogether, or at the least allow players to consume cannabis for medical purposes in certain circumstances. The NFL has taken an uncompassionate stance against cannabis use by its players, with a prime example of that being the case of Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson, who uses cannabis to treat a severe case of Crohn’s disease, was previously suspended 10 games for failing a league drug test because of cannabis use. Players like Seantrel Henderson should not be forced to either use more harmful pharmaceuticals, go without medicine altogether, or be forced to retire from the game that he obviously loves playing. A policy that presents only those options to suffering players is unacceptable.
You can send a message to the NFL at this link here. The Uncle Cliffy team is urging everyone to send a message to the NFL to let the league know that fans support letting NFL players make the safer choice. If enough fans make it known that they support cannabis reform in the NFL, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that the NFL will listen. Below is a message from retired NFL players to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calling for him to free the plant:
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.
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.
Back in March of this year Bleacher Report posted an article which described fears among National Football League (NFL) players that the Trump administration would crackdown on players that consume cannabis. The fears arose due to anti-cannabis comments made by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and then White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Mr. Spicer hinted at ‘greater enforcement’ of federal cannabis laws, and Jeff Sessions stated the following at the time, per Politico:
“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” Sessions said during an exchange with reporters at the Justice Department. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”
“We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
“I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said. “States they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”
The Uncle Cliffy team pointed out at the time that while it’s possible that the federal government could target a pro athlete for personal cannabis use, such a move would be unprecedented, and was highly unlikely. We felt that it was much more likely that the cannabis comments and news coming out of the White House earlier this year were more rhetoric than anything. By making such comments the Trump administration, and likely sports league officials, knew that it will create a chilling effect that would possibly slow down reform efforts, or convince advocates to abandon their efforts altogether.
Jeff Sessions’ staunch opposition to cannabis reform was also cited by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) in its response to the newly found support for cannabis reform by former head of the NBA David Stern last month. Per NBA.com:
“I think its fair to say we have to be mindful that given the current administration and Sessions’ comments on his view, that it’s a gateway drug, it wouldn’t be prudent for any changes to be made until we know what the current DOJ has to say about this.” – Michele Roberts, Executive Director of the NBPA
NBA and NFL players have every right to feel however they want about cannabis reform in pro sports, but they should not let the scare tactics of cannabis opponents like Jeff Sessions be the sole reason to oppose meaningful reform. The Trump administration has yet to go after a professional athlete for cannabis consumption, and the Uncle Cliffy team feels that such a move is very unlikely. Sessions’ previous comments were just empty political rhetoric, proven by his flip flop yesterday when testifying before a Congressional committee, as covered by Forbes:
Obama-era guidance that allows states to legalize marijuana without federal interference remains in effect, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday during a congressional hearing. He also conceded that cannabis is not as dangerous as heroin and that a current budget rider prevents the Department of Justice from prosecuting people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
“Our policy is the same, really, fundamentally as the Holder-Lynch policy, which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes,” Sessions said, referring to his predecessors as attorney general during the Obama administration.
Professional athletes need to focus on what is right, just, and compassionate, and not be distracted by the words of politicians. League officials can no longer hide behind the ‘cannabis consumption may result in federal prosecution’ scare tactic to keep players from standing up for what’s right. Cannabis prohibition has failed. That is true in professional sports just as it is true in society.
Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on racial minority communities, and league cannabis prohibitions perpetuate institutional racism. Every professional athlete should oppose such a policy. Suffering players should be allowed to use a safer, effective medicine like cannabis, no matter where they live. Only time will tell if the recent comments by Jeff Sessions will sway players and league officials, but it is the sincere hope of the Uncle Cliffy team that it proves to be the case sooner rather than later. Free the plant!