When Will Professional Sports Stop Penalizing Players For Smoking Legal Drugs, Like, Oh Say, Weed Maybe?

  • Jake O'Donnell

Mandatory drug testing is meant to do a few things:

Vet potential candidates
Check to see if a current employee is using illegal drugs, and thus putting the viability of the company at risk
Make sure the playing field is level (in the instance of PEDs)

All totally understandable, as an employer is entitled the right to know if someone they’re paying is sabotaging their own ability to be productive by using illegal drugs (or cheating). Makes sense. The thing is, it’s predicated on the assumption that illegal drugs make you less productive (or volatile or disinterested or whatever), while legal drugs — like tobacco and alcohol — while not endorsed by employers, are not, in fact, as viable risk to a worker’s ability to carry out his or her professional duties.

So what happens when a drug is legalized? Does that mean it’s no longer a threat to employers? Does it cease being something that affects a person’s capacity to contribute? When law enforcement authorities stop punishing people for possessing and using marijuana, doesn’t it sort of implore businesses to do the same? Because as far as we’re concerned, professional athletes seem to thrive despite their well-publicized love of weed, and the Colorado ruling that legalized it earlier this month basically gave the Nuggets, Broncos, Rockies, and Avalanche the green light to light up the green.

Or not.

So why are they still under the thumb of a law that no longer exists? Well, for starters, it’s up to their employer to distinguish what is or isn’t acceptable behavior, which also makes sense. At the same time, however, the line drawn at THC seems arbitrary (at best) when you consider the number of alcohol-fueled incidents that occur off the field. Just ask Jacoby Jones how that party bus ride went, when a sex worker smashed him across the face with a bottle of Armand de Brignac. Do they test for alcohol? Do they test for the alcoholism gene? Of course not — because it’s deemed socially acceptable (or something ridiculous like that).

Hey, just saying, you never hear about a player getting smashed across the face with a glass bubbler.

The point is, if it’s legal in one state, it can’t be THAT bad, and, at the same time, shouldn’t be a prosecutable offense if a player is observing the laws while he is in that particular state. Here are a few analogies we think best illustrate the NFL’s current drug policy vis-a-vis the laws of the great state of Colorado:

Punishing those who test positive for THC via legal Colorado marijuana is potentially like…

…suspending players for testing positive for over the counter sleep aid, Melatonin
…suspending players for patronizing prostitutes in Nevada
…suspending players for staying out a bar past 4:00 AM (on an off day)
…suspending a player for driving 79 MPH in Utah, where it is legal to do so on some stretches of highway
…suspending players who are in a same-sex marriage

You may disagree, but enforcing a policy that seems in lock step with the law of some states, becomes vastly more complicated when other states have different standards. Just ask Bill Belichick, who’s already had to address the issue with his team (most notably, LeGarrette Blount).

[NESN] While it seems like it shouldn’t be an issue, running back LeGarrette Blount confirmed that Belichick did talk to the Patriots about weed being legal in Colorado, as the team is preparing to travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. While it’s legal to partake in Colorado, it’s still against NFL rules. “It’s a business trip,” the appropriately named Blount said. “Nobody is going to care about that. Bill told us about it. He basically told us, ‘Don’t go out there and be stupid.’ [That’s] really good advice.” A reporter badgered Belichick during the coach’s press conference Friday about the legal drug in Colorado. Belichick, who was already in a surly mood, put an end to the questioning quickly. “I think we know what the NFL policy is on that,” Belichick said.

We’re not sure what the NFL, or other pro leagues for that matter, will do in the coming years, as perfectly harmless drugs like marijuana are freed from the archaic laws of yester-year. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how and when the league comes to grips with the fact that many players smoke pot, and it doesn’t impact their lives/work in any discernibly negative way. Will it always be a part of the league’s drug prevention policy, or will they finally chill out? Let us know what you think.