“When I was a kid, I inhaled. That was the point.”
– Then-Senator and two-term President of the United States Barack Obama on his experimentation with marijuana
Laremy Tunsil, once thought to be the a candidate for the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, saw his stock plummet this past Thursday before eventually being selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th pick. The primary reason for the slide was the surfacing of a video that allegedly showed Tunsil smoking marijuana through a gas mask.
Taking a look at the league’s policy on the drug’s use, it’s not hard to see why 12 teams had second thoughts.
According to the 2015 Policy and Program on the Substances of Abuse, agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, discipline for a failed marijuana test ranges from fines, testing, treatment and evaluation for a first time offense to a 10-game suspension and possible banishment for subsequent offenses. There’s no doubt the league feels marijuana use, even medicinal, is a threat to the safety of its players and integrity of its brand.
However… as recently as 2012, almost half of Americans admitted to having tried marijuana at some point. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health goes on to show that “marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. with data showing that 18.9 million Americans had used the drug in the prior month.” Americans appear to be softening their stance on marijuana use. A recent Pew Research survey found the public views “marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, both to personal health and to society more generally.”
With four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the DC – having passed laws to legalize marijuana use and an additional 14 decriminalizing it to varying degrees, for how long should we expect sports leagues and teams to hold their players to a higher standard?
Perhaps the motivation for change will come from the unquenchable thirst for new revenue streams. Anheuser-Busch and the NFL have a deal through the 2022 Super Bowl worth $1.4 billion. Could a multi-million-dollar deal with a medical or recreational marijuana producer force the NFL to rethink its policy?
What do you think?