On Thursday, the editorial board of The New York Timestackled the issue of NFL players being punished for marijuana use, as highlighted by MPP’s billboards around MetLife Stadium this week:
In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, in which it so happens both teams hail from states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pressure is mounting on the league to reconsider its ban. A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.
It’s a fair question. Marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, for starters, and more than 20 states have legalized it for medical purposes. The league would merely be catching up to contemporary practice by creating a medical exception.
As public opinion and state laws move away from strict prohibition, it’s reasonable for the NFL to do the same and let its players deal with their injuries as they — and their private doctors — see fit.
After seeing the massive popularity of the billboards MPP posted near the stadium where the Super Bowl will take place that emphasize the objective safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, Project SAM decided to insert their outdated message into the conversation.
On Tuesday, MPP unveiled a series of billboards surrounding MetLife Stadium, site of the upcoming Super Bowl, that have been getting a lot of attention. These ads highlight the fact that marijuana is objectively safer than both alcohol and football, and call on the NFL to stop punishing players for using the safer option.
This is especially noteworthy this year, as the two teams playing in the Super Bowl are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, both of whose home states made marijuana legal for adults in 2012.
On Wednesday, MPP’s Mason Tvert presented a Change.orgpetition calling on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to get rid of the policy of punishing players for using marijuana. The petition currently has more than 12,000 signatures.
Last week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) reported that it was changing its marijuana policies after mounting pressure from MPP, athletes, and promoters who said the strictness and penalties were far too severe and driving athletes to drink or use dangerous drugs.
According to Bleacher Report, the threshold for failing a marijuana test for athletes was raised from 50 ng/mL of THC in the bloodstream to 150 ng/mL, in line with what the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recommended for global athletic regulatory bodies.
MPP protested the previous policies with a billboard and petition to the NSAC in March after boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. was suspended and fined $900,000 for testing positive for marijuana metabolites. In May, WADA recommended raising the limit to 150 ng/mL to exclude prior marijuana use that could not possibly contribute to current impairment. The very next month, Marc Ratner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced that it was putting its self-regulatory policies in line with the WADA recommendations.
While it will still be possible to test positive under the new threshold, it will be very difficult for prior marijuana use to disqualify or punish fighters and other athletes. When Nevada makes marijuana legal in 2016, they will truly be able to make the safer choice of substances without fear of unnecessary penalties.
MPP is also pressuring other sports organizations, such as the NFL, to stop punishing players for using marijuana.
For years, the National Football League has been punishing athletes for using marijuana despite the fact that it is far less harmful than alcohol, a substance widely embraced by the league. Now that the U.S. Justice Department has announced it will allow states to legalize marijuana, the NFL needs to recognize and respect those laws, too.
The NFL would never punish a player simply for having a beer or cocktail, so why does it levy severe penalties against them for using a substance that is less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to contribute to violence? The NFL’s harsh marijuana penalties do nothing to promote the health and safety of the players. If anything, they put them in danger by steering them toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana instead.
Help us change the way our society views and treats marijuana by signing our petition to the NFL today. Tell the league to stop driving players to drink with severe penalties for using marijuana, especially in states where marijuana has been made legal for adult or medical use.