Cannabis reform has been sweeping across America since 1996 when the first state, California, voted to legalize medical cannabis. Since that time a number of states have followed suit in legalizing medical cannabis, and eight states have voted to legalize cannabis altogether. Washington D.C. has also legalized cannabis for both medical and adult use.
But while cannabis reform has occurred in society, most professional sports leagues have not evolved past full prohibition. The National Hockey League does not list cannabis as a banned substance, but Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) all prohibit cannabis, no exceptions. This despite an overwhelming majority of teams in those leagues being located in a state or country (Canada) that has reformed its cannabis laws in some form.
As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out before, cannabis has been legalized in some form (at least cannabidiol and/or low THC) in every state in America except five states (Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota). It is worth pointing out that Nebraska has decriminalized possession of cannabis, which puts it ahead of professional sports leagues that punish its players for possessing cannabis in states where it is a crime. However, Nebraska does not have a MLB, NFL, or NBA team.
There are only two teams from the NFL, NBA and/or MLB in the referenced list of full prohibition states, and they are both located in Indiana (the Pacers and the Colts). Indiana’s Governor currently has a medical cannabis bill awaiting his signature, which if signed, would result in zero NFL, NBA, or MLB professional teams being located in a state where cannabis is completely prohibited. A recent tweet by local Indiana media suggests that the Governor is very likely to sign the bill, as seen below:
— FOX59 News (@FOX59) April 25, 2017
Soon there will be no MLB, NFL, or NBA teams located in full prohibition states barring some type of league expansion. Players in these major sports leagues can legally purchase cannabis for adult use purposes right now in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, provided that they are 21 years old or older. Soon the same will be true for Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts, and California. California in particular is home to many MLB, NFL, and NBA teams. Legalization is also coming to Canada next summer at the federal level.
It’s beyond time that the NBA, NFL, MLB, and any other sports leagues that prohibit cannabis by its competitors make a serious effort and re-evaluate their stance against cannabis. They need to get on the right side of history and allow the players to make the safer choice. Free the plant!
image via WellandGood.com
When it comes to opposing cannabis, one of the ‘go to’ talking points for opponents is that ‘there needs to be more research’ before reform can occur. This is a common talking point for cannabis opponents both inside and outside of professional sports. It is a talking point that, for better or worse, resonates with many people that are on the fence about supporting reform. It is a good thing, in that the need to research cannabis is definitely something that should be supported.
But, it can be a two-edged sword because when people hear the ‘need for more research’ line from opponents, it makes it sound like the cannabis plant hasn’t been studied very much over the years. Opponents know this, which is why they often go to this delay tactic. Calling for more research is a way for an opponent to oppose cannabis reform, while coming across as not necessarily being against cannabis. It helps them avoid direct confrontation and delay the debate.
Opponents who use this tactic are glossing over one very big fact – there is an enormous amount of cannabis research that has already been conducted, and is easy to locate. PubMed.gov houses the online ‘U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health’ database. A quick search for the term ‘marijuana’ yields 25,124 returns as of this post, as you can see in the screen shot below:
As you can see from the ‘results by year’ chart in the upper right hand corner of the screen shot, the amount of cannabis research has been growing significantly in recent years – the same years that the ‘need for more research’ claim has been pushed by opponents more and more. To put into perspective how cannabis research compares to other substances, look at the search for one of the most common opioid prescriptions, hydrocodone. As of this posting, a search on PubMed.gov only yields 948 results for research, as seen below:
Toradol, which is widely used in the National Football League (NFL), as described by Eugene Monroe in his article for The Player’s Tribune, only yields 742 results. Even tylenol returns less study results than cannabis (20,540). For league officials to say that ‘there needs to be more research’ is a slap in the face to compassion and logic. As the math itself proves, the cannabis plant has been researched more than substances that are widely embraced by professional sports leagues.
Cannabis is non-toxic, and has been proven to be an effective treatment for all types of conditions and ailments. One study found that cannabis is 114 time safer than alcohol, a substance that is widely embraced by professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis. The Uncle Cliffy team recognizes that there will always be a need to add to the body of cannabis research that already exists.
However, we also believe that there is clearly enough research and other evidence available RIGHT NOW for league officials to conclude that cannabis prohibition has failed, and that allowing players to use cannabis is a smart, safe move. The Uncle Cliffy team invites league officials in professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis to take a strong look at the available cannabis research. We have been compiling a list of some of the more relevant cannabis research on this site to make it easier for people to learn the truth about the cannabis plant and how athletes can benefit from its use. That list can be viewed at this link here.
Recently it was revealed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones supports a complete end to the National Football League’s ban on cannabis. Reports stated that in a private meeting with other National Football League (NFL) owners Jerry Jones expressed his support for reforming the NFL’s cannabis policy, and that Jones even tried lobbying the other owners to join him with their support. In many ways the news was very encouraging. However, in at least one way the report was troubling.
According to media accounts, one of Jerry Jones’ selling points to other owners was that cannabis policy reform could be a ‘big bargaining chip’ in upcoming collective bargaining with NFL players. That aspect of the news was disappointing, in that players’ health and livelihood should never be considered a ‘bargaining chip.’ Cannabis has been proven to treat a number of ailments, especially chronic pain and brain injuries, and has been proven to reduce a person’s reliance on opioids.
It is no secret that the NFL is experiencing a painkiller abuse crisis, and has been for quite some time. A study from 2011 looked at retired NFL players and their painkiller use. The study found that retired NFL players used painkillers at four times the rate of the rest of society. Americans only make up 5% of the world’s population, but consume 80% of the world’s opioids, so keep that in mind when you hear the stat about NFL players versus non-NFL members of society. The consumption rate is staggering and saddening at the same time.
Considering the fact that numerous studies have shown that cannabis can reduce opioid consumption, one would think that alone would be enough to get the NFL to end its ban on cannabis. The league and its owners shouldn’t be using the policy change for posturing purposes, and should instead be taking a lead on the issue since such a move would be based on sound science. Cannabis literally has the ability to help save NFL players’ lives. As such, allowing players to consume cannabis should never be seen as a ‘bargaining chip.’ To say otherwise shows a tremendous lack of compassion.
Cannabis prohibition is harmful. Not kind of harmful. Not mostly harmful. Prohibition is entirely harmful. There is no benefit whatsoever to enforcing cannabis prohibition on grown adults in a professional sports league. The NFL’s cannabis testing policy is particularly harmful in that it has such a low threshold for cannabis metabolites in a players’ system compared to other leagues.
The NFL has a current threshold of 35 ng/ml of THC metabolites for a player to be considered as failing the drug test. It wasn’t that long ago that the threshold was even lower in the NFL, at 15 ng/ml. Compare that to the Olympics, which has a threshold of 150 ng/ml. Why is it that 35 ng/ml is seen as being incredibly harmful to an NFL player, to the point that his career could be completely ended via penalties and sanctions, but an Olympic athlete would still be so far below the threshold that there would be no issue whatsoever. The National Hockey League doesn’t test at all. How does that make any sense?
NFL owners, and the league as a whole, will benefit greatly from reforming its cannabis laws. If the owners ultimately want something in return for refraining from clinging to the failed policies of the past, here are some things they will get in return for ending cannabis prohibition in the NFL:
- Lower consumption rates of alcohol, a substance of which has been found to be 114 time safer than alcohol, a substance which is widely embraced by the NFL.
- Better health outcomes for players that experience brain injuries.
- Less use of opioids, which are ruining players’ lives.
- Lower consumption rates of prescription drugs for sleep disorders, anxiety, and migraines, many of which have harmful side effects.
- Having players on the field competing rather than serving a suspension for a plant that is legal for adult use in 8 states, and for medical use in 28 states (plus D.C.!)
- Supporting equality by eliminating a policy that has been proven to be a form of institutional racism.
- It would put the league in line with a majority of Americans that want to end prohibition, many of them NFL fans. It would also put the league in line with an overwhelming majority of sports media figures who feel the same way.
The Uncle Cliffy team urges players to push for a full and immediate end to cannabis prohibition in the NFL. It’s the only way to truly ensure that selective enforcement is eliminated in the league, that all players can consume medical cannabis if needed, and that players are measured by their skills on the field and their moral character, rather than the amount of cannabis metabolites they have in their bodily fluids. A ‘medical only’ approach will not go far enough, as it will no doubt result in some players getting a pass while other suffering players continue to be unfairly targeted. A players’ health is not a bargaining chip in any negotiation, and NFL players need to recognize that fact. Stand up for your right to make the safer choice!
image via Wikipedia
It is no secret that many professional athletes use painkillers at an alarming rate. A study from 2011 looked at retired NFL players and their painkiller use. The study found that 7% of retired NFL players still used painkillers on a regular basis. That’s four times the rate of the rest of society. The statistic is for players that are retired. It’s a safe assumption that the already alarmingly high number for retired players is even greater for current players. An ESPN survey of NFL players put the number at 46%, although that statistic is based off of player views, and not actual tracked usage.
42% of surveyed NFL players stated that they knew a fellow player that had become addicted to painkillers. If those numbers aren’t horrifying enough, consider how widespread the use of the harmful painkiller Toradol was/is in the NFL. Sports cannabis freedom fighter Eugene Monroe provided the following description of a game day ritual in an article he wrote for The Player’s Tribune:
Before kickoff on game day, in NFL locker rooms all over the country, players wait in line to drop their pants. We call it the T Train.
I play for the Baltimore Ravens, and if we’re at home there’s a small office sectioned off from the training room in M&T Bank Stadium that we use. If we’re on the road the visiting locker rooms don’t usually have sufficient space, so we just go to a corner of the training room. The T Train is nothing more than a bunch of really large guys waiting to pull their pants down to get shot in the butt with Toradol, a powerful painkiller that will help them make it through the game and its aftermath.
Instead of an injection, some players opt for an oral form of Toradol. The effects are the same, though, and can last through the next day. Some guys don’t feel any pain for two days. Of course, that’s the point of these drugs — they block out the pain and reduce inflammation. But they also temporarily mask injury. That’s not a good thing if you get hurt during a game — you might need to address your injuries right away. But you feel nothing, so you do nothing.
The NFL is currently facing a lawsuit over its overuse of the painkiller Toradol. Cannabis has been touted by NFL players as being a better alternative to painkillers. When asked in the previously cited ESPN survey which was better for recovery or pain control, Toradol or cannabis, 41% chose cannabis versus 32% that chose painkillers (27% chose neither).
If someone plays a contact sport long enough, they are going to get injured. In some of those cases, the injury will be severe enough that the athlete will need to come up with a pain management strategy. Sadly, many of them will be pushed towards opioids. A growing body of evidence is showing that not only is cannabis a safer, effective alternative to opioids, but that people can actually be weaned off of opioids by using medical cannabis.
A recent study looked at records of hospital discharges during 1997–2014, and found a 13% lower rate of opioid use in states that had legalized medical cannabis. The same study also found a 23% lower rate of opioid-related hospitalizations. It’s because of studies like these that the Uncle Cliffy team promotes cannabis over painkillers. Painkillers are harmful and can even cause death. Cannabis literally has the power to save lives. It’s beyond time that professional sports leagues recognized the facts and quit pushing players towards harmful substances instead of allowing them to make the safer choice.
Professional athletes have turned to cannabis for many years for wellness, relaxation, and/or recreational purposes. Cannabis is non-toxic, and has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Cannabis prohibition is a failed, harmful policy which are all reasons why the Uncle Cliffy team fights to free the plant and help kill the stigma surrounding responsible cannabis use.
Calls to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports, especially in the National Football League (NFL) have been growing in number. As long as the NFL and other sports leagues prohibit cannabis use among players, they are supporting and contributing to the needless destruction of some athletes’ careers and lives.
Cannabis prohibition is a racist policy, both in society and in professional sports leagues. African Americans are almost 4 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis, even though consumption rates between African Americans and other races are roughly the same. In parts of Missouri specifically, the racial disparity for cannabis arrests for African Americans is even greater, with African Americans being 18 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis. If an African American NFL player is 18 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis in certain parts of Missouri compared to whites, they are also 18 times as likely to be punished by the NFL for cannabis compared to their Caucasian colleagues. There’s no other way around it.
A strong majority (60%) of the American public supports ending cannabis prohibition, with recent polling showing majority support specifically for ending cannabis prohibition in professional sports leagues. 71% of NFL players think that medical cannabis should be legal in every state in America. 76.5% of sports media members support ending cannabis prohibition.
Support for cannabis reform in leagues like the NFL is at a fevered pitch. Proof of that came today when it was reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came out in support of ending cannabis prohibition in the NFL while talking at a recent owner’s only meeting. Per Pro Football Talk:
Jones also raised the question of the NFL’s position on marijuana. Jones, per a source who heard the comments, wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use. Jones was reminded that the issue falls under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition.
Separately, the league office reiterated to PFT its position that any changes to the substance-abuse policy would occur within the confines of labor negotiations, and that the league is willing to listen to the medical community about any potential changes to the rules regarding marijuana.
This is a very significant development in the sports cannabis world. Jerry Jones is obviously not the ‘average owner,’ not by a long shot. Jerry Jones has owned the Dallas Cowboys since 1989 and is one of the most recognizable figures in all of sports. The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports team on the entire planet. If Jerry Jones supports ending cannabis prohibition in the NFL, it’s an endorsement that could have serious influence on not only the NFL, but other sports leagues that prohibit cannabis.
Earlier this year NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came out in direct opposition to cannabis reform in the NFL. That was disheartening news at the time, as it had been previously thought leading up to Roger Goodell’s comments that there was a solid chance that the NFL would take an objective look at the overwhelming available evidence that cannabis helps treat many ailments and make the logical choice to update the NFL’s cannabis policy accordingly. Unfortunately that didn’t appear to happen.
Hopefully Jerry Jones’ recent comments will be backed up by some further action on his part, and that he will continue to urge owners to support ending cannabis prohibition in the NFL. The Uncle Cliffy team doesn’t like seeing cannabis reform being used as a ‘bargaining chip’ against players, and doesn’t feel that NFL players should have to give up anything in return for being able to use a non-toxic plant that is legal in many states, but this is still a significant development. It will be interesting to see how players react. Earlier this year the NFL Players Association announced that it would be putting out policy changes that would take a less punitive approach to cannabis policy.
image via Star-Telegram
Franco Harris was drafted 13th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 NFL Draft. Franco became only the fourth rookie to rush for 1,000 yards. Franco Harris also was on the receiving end of the famous “Immaculate Reception” pass from Terry Bradshaw.
Harris would go on to play for the Steelers for 12 seasons, with his 13th and final season being with the Seattle Seahawks in 1984. In total Franco Harris rushed 2,949 times for 12,120 yards and 91 touchdowns. Per the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
He rushed for 1,000 yards or more eight seasons and for more than 100 yards in 47 games. He also caught 307 passes for 2,287 yards and nine touchdowns. His career rushing total and his combined net yardage figure of 14,622 both ranked as the third highest marks in pro football history at the time of his retirement.
Harris, who was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 7, 1950, was an All-AFC choice in 1972, 1975, 1976, and 1977 and first- or second-team All-Pro six times. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls. Franco played in five AFC championships – missing a sixth because of injury – and four Super Bowls.
In Super Bowl IX, when the Steelers won their first-ever league title with a 16-6 victory over Minnesota, Harris rushed for 158 yards, compared to just 17 yards rushing for the entire Viking team. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Harris held numerous Super Bowl and postseason game records by the end of his career. The most notable included 24 points and 354 yards rushing in four Super Bowls and 17 touchdowns and 1,556 yards rushing in 19 postseason playoff games.
Franco Harris is not only a retired legendary football player, he is also an entrepreneur, a former Democratic presidential elector, and has been a pillar of the Pennsylvania community since his retirement. In every measurable way Mr. Franco is a successful, respected member of society. So it was very significant when he recently expressed support for the NFL allowing players to use medical cannabis for pain management.
“I will tell you this, if it ever comes to a point where I do need pain management, I’d feel very lucky and happy now that we have medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania.” Franco said recently according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“The NFL is reviewing its position on medical marijuana,” Harris said evenly. “They’re really reviewing their whole pain management regimen and how those things are handled, but if you don’t mind me giving you my personal feeling (why the hell would I mind?), I feel in any state that has approved medical marijuana (as 28 states hosting 20 of the NFL’s 32 teams have), the league should remove medical marijuana from being a banned substance. I feel that recreational marijuana should be a banned substance in the NFL, but medical marijuana has a different composition.” Franco said according to the article.
Franco Harris’ support for medical cannabis is very helpful for medical use among players, but it would have been nice to see him extend that to adult use as well. Hopefully that’s just a matter of further education on the topic of cannabis prohibition, which is a tremendously harmful, racist policy. As we have pointed out there before on the Uncle Cliffy blog, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that 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 cannabis is only allowed for medical purposes in the NFL and other sports leagues, it doesn’t address this very important issue.
Hopefully Franco Harris, and other athletes that are hesitant to end cannabis prohibition in sports altogether, learn more about prohibition as a whole, and how harmful it is. The Uncle Cliffy team understands that cannabis reform in athletics is a fairly new conversation that is occurring, and that support for full reform is going to be an evolving process. We encourage professional athletes, both current and retired, to reach out to us to share information about cannabis reform and to collaborate on efforts. If players, fans, and cannabis advocates everywhere unite behind one message we will free the plant. A huge tip of the hat to Franco Harris, and to all athletes speaking out in support of reform!
image via Penn Live
A big push has been underway to try to convince the National Football League (NFL) to update its harmful cannabis policy. Currently the NFL considers cannabis to be a banned substance, and any player that submits to a drug test and crosses the 35 nanograms per milliliter THC limit is penalized. This despite record setting levels of support from the American public for cannabis legalization in society (per Gallup), and a majority level of support for professional athletes using legal cannabis in particular.
Eight states have legalized cannabis for adult use, and nearly 30 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Yet, the NFL clings to its outdated policy. Why? It was the hope of many that the NFL would be on its way to changing its cannabis policy after it was recently announced that the NFL Players Association would be proposing a ‘less punitive’ cannabis policy to the league. That hope was short lived, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear during his ‘state of the league’ address that the NFL has no plans on the horizon to make any changes. Below is an excerpt from a transcript released by The Cannabist:
Q: Given that medical marijuana or recreational marijuana is legal in many states, including Colorado, do you foresee any adjustment to that policy or any review of that part of league drug policy?
Goodell: “We always review our drug policy. That is something that our medical professionals do on a regular basis. We have had discussions with them in the past about that, not recently. They have opposed that. We are not restricted obviously by the state laws. It’s an NFL policy and we believe it’s the correct policy, for now, in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players. I don’t foresee a change in that clearly in the short term, but we’ll continue to be in touch with our medical personnel. If that changes, we’ll discuss it.”
Q: To be a bit more specific on the marijuana question, you said two years ago at the summit with Jack Welch that if there was more research done for medical marijuana for players, you would consider approving it. There has been a lot of research in the last couple years. Players like Jim McMahon and Kyle Turley have talked about how it has helped them. Where does the league stand on the issue of medical marijuana for players and ex-players?
Goodell: “I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana issue in the context of my previous answer. Our medical professionals look at that. That is exactly what we talked to them about. I would assume that it would be used in a medical circumstance or if it is even in recreational, our medical professionals look at it in both ways and determine whether they think it is in the best interest to do that. Yes, I agree there has been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view. Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.”
The NFL’s approach to cannabis is harmful to players. It forces players to use more harmful substances like pharmaceutical painkillers that often result in a lifelong battle with addiction for the athlete that is left with little choice in the matter. The current policy results in players like Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson being suspended for 10 games. Seantrel Henderson uses medical cannabis to treat Crohn’s disease and has had to endure multiple surgeries that has resulted in part of Seantrel’s intestines being removed.
If the NFL (and its doctors) truly cared for its players, cases like Seantrel Henderson’s would never exist. The NFL’s cannabis policy is clearly not driven by science, but rather the personal political opinions of just a handful of people in power.
A big push has been going on for many months now to get the National Football League (NFL) to update its harmful cannabis policy. Currently the NFL limit for THC in a player’s system is 35 nanograms per milliliter, up from the previous 15 ng/mL limit. To put that into perspective, Olympic athletes are held to a 150 nanograms per milliliter threshold. The NFL’s notoriously low THC limit has resulted in a lot of players being disciplined when they wouldn’t have if they were competing for gold medals rather than Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Former NFL players like Eugene Monroe have led the push for reform in the NFL, which has led to the message of reform resonating with current players. The effort culminated this week when the NFL Player’s Association announced that it would be proposing a ‘less punitive’ NFL cannabis policy. Per The Washington Post:
Leaders of the NFL Players Association are preparing a proposal that would amend the sport’s drug policies to take a “less punitive” approach to dealing with recreational marijuana use by players, according to the union’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith.
The proposal will be presented to union’s board of player representatives, Smith said Tuesday. If it is approved by those players, Smith said, the proposal will be made to the league. The NFL would have to agree to any changes to the drug policy, which is negotiated and jointly administered by the league and players’ union.
Details have not been released regarding what the players are proposing. In a perfect world, cannabis would be removed from the NFL’s banned substance list altogether. That is the policy that has been adopted by the National Hockey League (NHL), and the policy has not led to any issues over there. The NFL should follow suit. However, that may not be a realistic goal to achieve, so a ‘less punitive’ approach may be a better strategy. Regardless of what the proposal ends up looking like, it will no doubt be a better policy than what is currently in place. Stepping up for reform in a professional sports league is not an easy thing to do, and the Uncle Cliffy team commends everyone involved with this proposal!
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
The National Football League (NFL) considers cannabis to be a banned substance. The fact that the NFL prohibits cannabis use, but allows the use of various other substances that are much more harmful, is hypocritical to say the least. The NFL needs to have more compassion for its players. With NFL players suffering from chronic pain, and often times brain injuries, it’s time that the NFL got on the right side of history.
As it stands right now, there are 25 states that allow medical cannabis use, and four states that have legalized adult-use cannabis laws. Washington D.C. has approved both medical and adult-use cannabis laws. The upcoming election could very well see more states added to the list. So why doesn’t the NFL recognize that cannabis is medicine, and a safer alternative to alcohol, and permit its use? How do players feel about the NFL’s ban on cannabis, and cannabis in society?
ESPN recently conducted a survey asking NFL players questions about cannabis. Below are some of the questions along with the results. As you can see, there is overwhelming support for cannabis reform among current NFL players. The ESPN survey involved 226 players, including players from both the AFC and NFC:
Should medical marijuana be legal in all states?
Yes 71 percent
No 29 percent
Is it hard to beat the NFL’s testing system for recreational drugs?
Yes 33 percent
No 67 percent
Have you ever used marijuana to help with concussion symptoms?
Yes 17 percent
No 83 percent
Have you ever had a teammate who you think became an addict because of NFL painkiller abuse?
Yes 42 percent
No 58 percent
What would you rather use if both were allowed by the NFL: Toradol** or marijuana?
Toradol 57 percent
Marijuana 43 percent
Do you worry about the long-term effects of painkillers?
Yes 59 percent
No 41 percent
If marijuana were an allowed substance, would fewer players take painkillers?
Yes 61 percent
No 39 percent
Which is better for recovery and pain control: marijuana or painkillers?
Marijuana 41 percent
Painkillers 32 percent
Neither 27 percent