It’s Time for Sports Leagues to Allow Marijuana

Josh-Gordon-Cleveland-Browns-NFL-marijuana-suspensionIt looks like Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon’s NFL career could be over…all because of marijuana. It could cost him tens of millions of dollars in future earnings.

Gordon was busted by the NFL for having a diluted urine sample, which the NFL considers as a failed drug test. He missed a portion of the 2014 season and the entire 2015 season due to marijuana-related suspensions. He also had issues in college stemming from his marijuana use, like falling asleep in a Taco Bell drive-through lane as a sophomore.

Many will look at Gordon as someone without self-control or someone that has shown signs of being an addict. It’s a fair assumption since he’s been disciplined numerous times since college for smoking weed.

I think it’s time for the NFL and other professional sports leagues to be proactive and abolish suspensions for using marijuana.

NFL players are tested once a year for marijuana, opiates, amphetamines and other illegal drugs between April 20th and August 9th every year. If a player passes a test, they don’t have to worry about it until the following offseason. That testing period becomes year-round if you fail a test and you enter the NFL drug program. This is where many players in the past like running back Ricky Williams and Gordon have had trouble.

The NFL recently increased their failed test mark from 15 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter to 35 nanograms. The increase is ridiculously small, but it’s a step in the right direction. Major League Baseball’s threshold is 50 nanograms. Those numbers are ridiculous considering the World Anti-Doping Agency, which does the testing for the Olympics, uses a threshold of 150 nanograms. Just for reference, a casual marijuana user’s urine sample would be somewhere between 100 and 200 nanograms.

States have been slowly been approving the use of medical marijuana and a few states have legalized recreational use. I predict that in the coming years medical marijuana will be legal in nearly every state and once states start seeing all the money coming in from recreational-use states, they will join in on the money train.

It’s important for the NFL to be the first sports league to completely stop testing for marijuana. It is becoming more clear that cannabis can be used as a successful treatment for long-term head trauma. The NFL should take a step in the right direction and be proactive about concussion treatment for a change. At the very least, they should allow medical marijuana prescriptions like many sports organizations have allowed sympathetic waivers for steroids if the athlete suffers from hypogonadism or Adderall for athletes with attention deficit disorder.

Also, cannabis could be a safer alternative to opiate pain relievers that ex-athletes can easily abuse and have in the past. As more people study the benefits of marijuana, it is becoming more clear that the pain relieving properties far outweigh the negatives.

It is estimated that at least 40% of NFL players use marijuana for pain and stress relief during the season (that percentage is even higher in the NBA). Alcohol is another alternative, but no league tests for that unless you’re already in a drug program for a DUI, like former Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater.

Drug testing is part of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association. In order for this idea of removing marijuana testing to even be put on the table, the players would have to give something to the owners in return. It would take some pretty major concession and I’m not sure if the majority of the NFLPA really cares enough to give up something important in return. If the NFLPA agreed to increase regular season to 18 games, I’m sure it would be immediately approved, but that will never happen.

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sweetbob-author-picAbout the Author…

Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot ClicksGuyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.

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