Thursday, February 20, 2014

NFL: Legalization of Marijuana (2014-Present)

NFL logo in front of marijuana leaf
A month ago, hundreds of people lined up in outside of a dispensary in Boulder Colorado and waited for hours just to get their hands on legal Marijuana for recreational use. Colorado's new stance allows anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and use the drug. However if you are an NFL player the same guidelines don't apply as exemplified by NFL athletes including, Broncos star linebacker Von Miller and 49ers star defensive end Aldon Smith.
Weed's gradual movement toward legalization requires professional sports drug policies to take a side. Many professional athletes resort to using powerful and addictive drugs such as Oxycontin and Toradol injections. At least 12 former football players in the NFL have filed lawsuits against the league for what they say is an irresponsible and highly-dangerous use of medicine. Cannabis advocates argue that pot is far less dangerous and more effective when treating pain and healing concussions.
 An NFL player who tests positive for marijuana is subject to the same penalty scheme as if he tested positive for cocaine or heroin. If a player is a repeat offender penalties can result in multiple unpaid game suspensions and additional fines on top of intervention and possibly rehab.  In 2011, Broncos linebacker Von Miller tested positive for cannabis. Last September, he received a six-game suspension, which cost him $806,162 in salary.
Ricky Williams, another marijuana user and ex-NFL running back struggled his entire career with using the drug to treat his own depression and anxiety. , Williams career was at a time where medical experts were unsure about the therapeutic value of using marijuana. Going forward many believe that Williams will become the face of medical marijuana in sports. Ed Werner of ESPN told that "Ricky Williams will be redeemed."        
Despite cannabis being legal in multiple states, the Federal government still labels the drug as Schedule 1, under the same classification as LSD and heroin. Many healthcare providers disagree with the use of medical marijuana.  Foundation for a Drug Free World, for instance, contends that marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer and other lung problems. The psychoactive effects attributed to marijuana caused by it containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) also impair cognitive reasoning.
There are currently 11 NFL stadiums located in states where medical marijuana is legal. New medicinal marijuana studies are receiving heightened publicity based on their therapeutic value and ability to treat concussions. Attitudes about the drug are reversing more and more as medical studies prove the drug to be useful. It is unlikely that the NFL will change their drug policy anytime soon however medical marijuana adversaries took note when commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell stated, "if medical experts ever say medical marijuana would help with concussions then [he] would consider allowing it." In addition he answered another question on medical marijuana saying "I don't know what's going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine."

Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins running back
Individualist economic theory suggests the only goal of a business is to make profit, so the only obligation that the business person has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders.
If the NFL based its decision on the individualist theory, it would take marijuana off of the banned substance list and let player use the drug for medicinal purposes. Ultimately fans want to see the best level of competition in the world when they watch professional sports. When franchise players are injured less people go to the games and spend money. For example when Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and was out for the season his jersey sales plummeted. If somehow marijuana can heal injuries and bring players back onto the field and put fans in the seats then Freidman and other individualist thinkers would agree with letting players use marijuana. If players were healing faster and experiencing less cerebral problems down the road it would decrease the amount of lawsuits against NFL organizations and the league itself in turn raising profits. Thus, the NFL will allow any form of drug as long as it makes the owners and shareholders more money.

The utilitarian ethical theory states that decisions should be made based on maximizing the number of happy people and having the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain. Happiness is the only thing of intrinsic value in the minds of Utilitarians. By offering players more advanced medicine they would obtain happiness. In addition it would stop retired players from abusing dangerous painkillers in the future which would make themselves and their families happier. One group of people that wouldn't be happy would be the current painkiller drug manufacturers. I'm sure they would loose enormous revenue if cannabis turned out to prove all of the positive effects that its adversaries talk about. Despite, the displeasure of these drug manufacturing companies the players and their families will obtain greater happiness than the fat cat drug producers will loose when their revenues drop. 
Marijuana plant, about to be harvested


Kantian theory suggests that we must act rationally and not consider ourselves above the rules. In addition we must allow and help others make rational decisions. Kantian theory is driven by good will which means we must respect others autonomy because it is the right thing to do. This theory supports keeping cannabis on the banned substance list. It would be unfair for players in certain states to use the drug for its healing benefits and have other players not be able to use it because of their state's legislation. Kant would say that this is inconsistent and that some players are exempt from rules and others aren't. This would make the NFL an unfair playing field. Once medical marijuana was legal in all 50 states then the NFL can reevaluate. If medical marijuana is legal in all 50 states it would make sense according to Kant to take the drug off of the banned substance list and let players use it for medicinal purposes. However before letting players use the drug the NFL must mandate that the player obtains a medical prescription and are not using the drug in a way that is harmful to their body for example smoking it. We must remember that inhaling a dried plant such as marijuana is know to cause some types of lung and throat cancer. The NFL should mandate that the players are informed on the possible dangers of the drug and that they resort to safer methods of using the drug such as spraying under the tongue or using a vaporizer. The NFL must look after the autonomy of the players and help them make rational decisions. In addition if studies show that marijuana simply masks the symptoms of certain injuries and allows players to falsely feel better in order to get back on the field, the NFL must take action again to protect the players. 

Virtue Theory
Lastly, the Virtue theory encompasses 4 main virtues of character. They are courage, honest, temperance/self control and justice/fairness. For courage, if marijuana was proven to help with multiple football related injuries than the NFL would protest to allow medical marijuana in all 50 states. The NFL would stand up for the players and argue that change must occur. This risk taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions is courage. Secondly the NFL would be honest with all the players and let them know what the NFL is doing in regards to their health. Thirdly, temperance is "reasonable expectations and desires. NFL organizations should have reasonable expectations and desires when pushing players to get healthy and get back on the field to help the team. Never should a player feel pressure to play if they are not fully healthy. This oftentimes leads to elongated recovery and can even lead to career ending injuries. Lastly is justice which is hard work quality practices and fair practices. Similarly to Kantianism the NFL cannot allow some players to use medical marijuana while others can not. It would be unfair and unjust to give certain players an advantage based on their location. Following the virtue theory would allow the market (NFL) to work harmoniously in society.

The future of marijuana in the sport of football is unclear. According to these different ethical theories, cannabis should be taken off the NFL's schedule 1 drug list alongside LSD, cocaine and heroin and be allowed with a prescription similar to ADHD medication. 

These facts and analysis are based on a sports law article by Michael McCann for 


McCann, Michael. "How Should the NFL Deal with Increased Legalization of Marijuana?" Web log post. University of New Hampshire School of Law, 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <>.

Huff, Ethan A. "NFL Players Sue League for Allegedly Drugging up Players with Dangerous Painkiller Drugs in Order to Conceal Concussions." NaturalNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <>

"Individualism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. <>.

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