No Fun League: NFL Behind the Times on Marijuana


The National Football League finished up the 2015 draft, bringing in new players that will go on to make millions of dollars and win Super Bowls while others will fade out of the league or never make a roster at all. Some of these players are big and strong, others quick, some fast, some with the right combination to win MVPs and potentially a bust in the NFL Hall of Fame. But of all the traits that will determine future Pro Bowlers versus washouts, marijuana usage doesn’t matter any more than alcohol or video games on how well they will perform on the field.

Unfortunately, however, marijuana use could cost some of these athletes millions of dollars and potentially their entire career. Following a minor marijuana citation, the Missouri Tigers’ Shane Ray, one of the most feared pass rushers in the draft fell out of the first 10 draft picks, past number twenty, into the arms of the Denver Broncos, who traded up into the #23 spot to take the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Thanks to the citation, Ray will be subjective to extra scrutiny and random drug tests for the first part of his career. Of course, not lost on anyone is that Ray was drafted into a state that has legalized marijuana, into a city that is certainly on the short list for cannabis capital of the world.

The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla comments on the absurdity of it all:

So riddle me this: How many of the 31 other first-round picks in the 2015 NFL draft do you think have smoked marijuana? Fifty years ago, it was smuggling cases of Coors out of the Rocky Mountains under a blanket in the back of a pick-up truck. Now, the rest of the USA can blame Colorado for spreading sticky icky throughout the country.

During the past 12 months, thanks to everybody from Ray Rice to Aaron Hernandez, pro football has given America a chance to have gut-wrenching discussions on social issues from domestic violence to the entitlement that can cause an athlete to believe it’s possible to get away with murder.

But, for more than a year, forward-thinking NFL leaders such as Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have been advocating that marijuana be studied by the league for its potential benefits as a natural medicine rather than reefer madness to be punished with a suspension for repeat offenders.

Medical marijuana has been mainstream for easily over a decade and legalized cannabis not only enjoys strong majority support, but even naysayers admit that legalization is inevitable. The NFL, sometimes lampooned as the “No Fun League” for clamping down on on-the-field celebrations, when it has a dark history of violence, drug addiction and traumatic brain injuries. NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion, Mark Stepnoski and rushing champion Ricky Williams have demonstrated that cannabis use isn’t detrimental to performance while Olympic champion Michael Phelps has shown that a marijuana user can be the greatest athlete in his or her field. I love the NFL, American loves the NFL, but it is time that the No Fun League represents a majority of the country and recognize the legitimate medicinal benefits of cannabis.

Carl Wellstone

Carl Wellstone is a writer, blogger and civil libertarian.