Puff, Puff, Pass...not so fast for Pro Athletes.
Despite the rumblings and grumblings from newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions, the use of marijuana in some form or fashion is now legal in over 30 states and the District of Columbia. The people organized. The people voted. AG Sessions needs to just get over it. But guess what, so do most governing bodies that control professional sports leagues and teams. Marijuana use is still strictly prohibited in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL and all of the players are subject to some form of testing. Why are so many pro teams and leagues resistant to marijuana use by their players?
I have a few theories.
1.) The science is still largely in question. If there were definitive statements made by the medical community about the overall benefits of marijuana use, then the sports leagues would have a hard time prohibiting its use. The truth of the matter is that until the various departments of federal law enforcement act (Justice Department; Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, etc.) remove the classification of cannabis from a controlled substance, the medical research community
will not be able to engage in the wide scale testing that would be necessary to make any of the definitive statements leagues and team owners may be looking for.
For example, this is what the Federal Drug Administration says about marijuana use:
“The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The agency has, however, approved two drugs containing a synthetic version of a substance that is present in the marijuana plant and one other drug containing a synthetic substance that acts similarly to compounds from marijuana but is not present in marijuana. Although the FDA has not approved any drug product containing or derived from botanical marijuana, the FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”
2.) There is still a negative stigma attached to marijuana use. Maybe the team owners and the leagues see images of “Cheech and Chong” or “Snoop Dog” when they think of marijuana. And the idea of them paying millions of dollars to a guy that would put those substances in his body just rubs them the wrong way.
3.) Maybe they figure that alcohol is probably as far as they are willing to go in terms of acceptable recreational substances. Despite some of the negative effects that long term alcohol consumption have on the human body, this may make sense when you consider how much money beer companies spend and make at various sporting events and through marketing and advertising. Just in the NFL alone,Anheuser-Busch InBev paid 1.2 billion dollars to make sure that Bud Light is the “official beer of the NFL” through 2022. I wonder if one of those emerging “Weed Company’s” kicked out that kind of green would the players be allowed to smoke some. Just a thought.
In any event, the legal weed market is generating profits for the jurisdictions that have embraced it fully, so the roll out may continue across the country. And as more and more states get on board, the pressure will mount on pro sports leagues and teams to continue to justify barring the use of marijuana as a banned substance.
This will be especially true once the medical community states once and for all that the use of medical marijuana can ease the pain of sore and strained muscles, concussions, and is ten times better than the prescription pain killers that are apparently “handed out like candy”.
Garrick Farria, esq.
I'm an attorney in Fort Worth Texas, married father, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hobbyist, and I love dogs! I'm also a certified FIBA agent and currently represent over 20 professional basketball players through Aspire Sports Management.