The National Football League regular season concluded leaving the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks sitting at 13-3 and owning home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs leading to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Denver? Seattle? Super bowl?
That’s right; the two largest American cities where marijuana is legal are also home to the two best teams in American football. They also feature star players who’ve been punished by the NFL for their use of marijuana.
Back when the Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch ran for the Buffalo Bills in 2009, he was busted in a Benz that reeked of reefer. Von Miller, a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, had to sit out the first six games of the season for failing the NFL’s drug test (he’s suffered a season-ending knee injury, unfortunately.)
Seattle also had at least three players on their injured reserve with a marijuana past, including wide receiver Percy Harvin, formerly with the Vikings, who used marijuana to cope with migraines as a college player and ended up testing positive at the NFL Scouting Combine.
However, the NFL has an image to maintain and despite the top two playoff teams playing in legal marijuana states and three more playoff teams (Patriots, Chargers, Niners) playing in medical marijuana states, the league continues to test for, fine, and suspend players over marijuana.
This is a tragedy, considering what we know about the abuse of painkillers by NFL players. Worsening the tragedy is the recent knowledge that cannabinoids help protect the brain from the damaging effect of head trauma. An inhaled hit of THC after a “bell-ringing” hit on the field could actually prevent the worst effect of concussion. The NFL recently settled a lawsuit over concussions that cost them $765 million -- I’m sure we could put vaporizers in the locker room for far less cost.
That $765 million, however, is small change to the $10 billion per year NFL profit machine. Much of that profit comes from beer and pharmaceutical ads that benefit the networks that buy the rights to broadcast the games. It’s also an NFL heavily invested in the public relations game, an enterprise that still has to appeal to family audiences and conservative football-loving regions of the country.
The NFL should follow the lead of the National Hockey League and just not test for marijuana. Nobody expects the league to promote marijuana use, but if the players for the ten teams in medical marijuana states are getting it legally, why stop them? Why stop any player if the league doesn’t consider it performance enhancing, other than to be the morality police?
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."