The National Football League (NFL) currently prohibits cannabis consumption by players with zero exceptions. The NFL’s drug test threshold for cannabis is 35 ng/mL of THC metabolites, which is less than Major League Baseball (50 ng/mL) and far less than the standard that Olympic athletes are held to (150 ng/mL).
Over two dozen states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes beyond just low-THC/high-CBD, and all but four states have reformed their cannabis laws to at least allow low-THC/high-CBD possession in limited circumstances. Nine states have passed measures to legalize cannabis for adult-use. Washington D.C. has legalized cannabis for both medical and adult-use.
Of the four states that still completely prohibit cannabis (Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and South Dakota) none of them have an NFL team. Literally, every state and district that NFL teams are located have more progressive cannabis policies than the NFL itself. Why does the NFL continue to cling to cannabis prohibition? Cannabis prohibition provides zero benefits to the NFL and it can be easily argued that cannabis prohibition is bad for the NFL and its players.
By not allowing NFL players to make the safer choice and use cannabis, the NFL is pushing players towards much more harmful substances, most notably addictive opioids. Increased access to cannabis has been associated with significant reductions in opioid use, which is something that the NFL should be embracing given its ongoing issues related to opioid addiction and abuse by current and former players.
Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that the NFL widely embraces. In addition to players being allowed to consume alcohol, the NFL is heavily sponsored by the alcohol industry. The NFL’s prohibition on cannabis in the name of ‘player safety’ while they simultaneously embrace alcohol and pharmaceuticals is blatant hypocrisy.
An unfortunate example of that hypocrisy played out recently with the NFL’s denial of a medical cannabis exemption request by NFL running back Mike James. James had applied for a therapeutic use exemption with the NFL which is a process meant to help players that require the use of a banned substance to treat a diagnosed medical problem.
James, who had been taking harmful pharmaceuticals to treat his chronic pain since 2013, found relief after using medical cannabis. He was able to beat his addiction to opioids, which improved his health and quality of life. “I never had something where I could be coherent and still have pain relief.” James said according to CNN.
Now James is faced with three choices. He can either go back to using opioids, continue to use cannabis and risk his career, or he can retire from the NFL. Obviously, none of those options are acceptable. The NFL should have compassion for Mike James and other suffering players and at the least allow them to be exempt from the NFL’s cannabis policy, or even better, to end cannabis prohibition altogether.
The fans of the NFL want to see their players on the field competing, and not serving a suspension because they decided to use a substance that is safer than alcohol and most pharmaceutical drugs. NFL players should only be prevented from competing if they are too hurt to play or they have done something truly wrong. Suspending them for cannabis takes away from the NFL’s product and often ruins players’ careers.
NFL cannabis prohibition perpetuates institutional racism. Cannabis reform in the NFL has the support of fans, players, and even members of sports media according to polling. The NFL needs to care more about the well-being of its players and get on the right side of history. Cannabis is medicine and cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, both inside and outside of NFL stadiums. Shame on the NFL for denying Mike James’ request and a huge hat tip to James for having the courage to speak out. Free the plant!
Currently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) prohibits all forms of cannabis use by players, even when the player is in a state where cannabis is legal, and even when the use is medical in nature. There are no exceptions.
That policy is extremely out of touch in 2018. As of the posting of this article 9 states have approved measures to legalize cannabis for adult use, in addition to Washington D.C. More than three times as many states have legalized cannabis for medical use (in addition to Washington D.C.). More states are likely to legalize cannabis in the near future, as is the entire country of Canada.
Gallup’s most recent poll found that a record level of Americans now support legalizing cannabis for adult use (64%). A different poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 94% of Americans support allowing people to use cannabis for medical purposes. Yet, despite all of that, the NBA still clings to cannabis prohibition.
When the NBA suspends players for using cannabis, they are not only harming the players and their teams, they are also harming the league itself. Ultimately the NBA’s main product is its players. When players are not on the court, the league’s overall product suffers. Fans want to see their team’s players on the court, and the NBA should want to as well.
Sometimes taking a player off the court makes sense, such as when a player is hurt or dealing with a personal matter. Other times taking a player off the court, such as for valid disciplinary reasons, is warranted. However, taking a player off the court simply because they have THC metabolites in their urine is ludicrous.
The NBA has a current threshold of just 15 ng/mL. If a player crosses that threshold they are penalized, which was the case recently with Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha. Both players were suspended for 5 games after violating the league’s anti-cannabis policy.
To put the 15 ng/mL threshold into perspective, one study found that someone could fail a drug test for just simply being around other people that were consuming cannabis. The study found that one participant tested at over 50 ng/mL and several participants tested at over 20 ng/mL due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure.
NBA players could theoretically be in violation of the league’s policy when they haven’t even personally consumed cannabis, especially considering that cannabis can stay in a person’s system for as long as 100 days. Olympic athletes are held to a standard that is ten times more lenient.
The Uncle Cliffy team does not know the circumstances with these players, but the fact that it’s even a possibility that they could have been suspended due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure highlights how ridiculous the NBA’s current cannabis policy is. NBA cannabis policies should be based on science and compassion, and not on outdated political views.
NBA league officials need to get on the right side of history, and NBA players need to refuse to settle for anything less. The league’s current cannabis policy is harmful to players, to their families who also have to deal with stigma, to their teams, and to the league itself. It’s so strict that it could result in players being suspended when they have not even consumed cannabis.
Cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that is widely embraced by the NBA. If the NBA can embrace alcohol, then players should be able to consume a plant that is exponentially safer. To say otherwise defies logical reasoning. The NBA needs to do what is right and free the plant!
Opioid use is a major concern for athletes that compete at all levels. Athletes are at a higher risk of getting injured compared to non-athletes, and whenever there is an injury involved the potential for opioid abuse becomes a very real threat.
Professional sports leagues have been struggling to reduce opioid abuse among players, and retired athletes have been scrambling to find ways to battle the issue on their own. Fortunately for athletes, there is a plant that can help according to a growing body of research. That plant is, of course, the cannabis plant.
The results of two studies were released recently which found that increased access to cannabis leads to a reduction in opioid use. Below is more information about it from our friends at Americans for Safe Access:
New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation’s opioid crisis . Two studies, published on April 2nd by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal a net decrease in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws for Medicare and Medicaid populations.
The first study, conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia, found that states with active medical cannabis dispensaries saw 3,742,000 fewer daily doses per year filled for prescription opioids under Medicare Part D (typically enrollees are over 65) compared to states without medical cannabis programs. This decrease equates to about a 14% reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws. The other study revealed that states with medical cannabis laws were associated with a 5.88% lower rate of opioid prescribing for individuals enrolled in Medicaid (typically enrollees are low income) than states without medical cannabis laws.
“This research continues to validate the notion that cannabis is an effective tool in pain management” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “The latest numbers show us that there were over 64,000 opioid deaths last year. We need to be doing more to fight this epidemic, especially by making sure that individuals suffering from chronic pain have the option to use non-addictive, effective pain treatments like medical cannabis.”
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found significant evidence that cannabis is effective at treating pain in some conditions. Previously published research has indicated that states with medical cannabis laws have shown up to a 25% reduction in opioid deaths and that states with medical cannabis dispensaries have shown reductions in opioid overdose deaths by as much as 40%.
In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, Americans for Safe Access, in partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other advocacy organizations launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign in late 2017. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.
More can be found about the campaign here.
Multiple reasons have been offered up over the years as ‘justification’ for prohibiting cannabis in professional sports. One of the most common ones is that ‘cannabis is illegal’ and so, therefore, leagues must prohibit it. That ‘justification’ has become more problematic for league prohibitionists in recent years due to the spread of cannabis reform across the country and globe. Reform opponents still use the talking point, but it’s less valid with every passing year.
Another ‘justification’ that has been offered up over the years is that cannabis is harmful to players’ health. The ‘player safety’ argument has been watered down over the years as more and more studies have found that not only is cannabis safer than many other substances that leagues embrace (alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc.), but that cannabis has the potential to treat all types of conditions, ailments, and injuries that professional athletes experience.
The latest talking point used by league officials, and even some player union reps, is that cannabis reform cannot occur in professional sports because of fears of what United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions might do. The ‘Jeff Sessions boogeyman argument’ is a stretch at best. While Jeff Sessions may go after large cannabis companies or even smaller cannabis companies, it would be unheard of for the federal government to take action against a professional athlete who has THC metabolites in their system.
The Uncle Cliffy team has discussed this a number of times on this blog (here, here, here, here, and here). The talking point was flimsy at best in previous months but recently became completely moot when Jeff Sessions made it clear that the federal government won’t go after ‘routine cases’ dealing with cannabis, let alone go after a professional athlete for consuming cannabis. Jeff Sessions stated the following late last week, per Marijuana Moment:
“We’re not going to be able, even if we desired, to take over state enforcement of routine cases that might occur,” he said, referring to the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis. “Federal agents are highly paid, highly trained, and they work on cases involving cartels, international organizations, major distribution networks, large amounts of cash. And they deal with criminal organizations, RICO-type cases. And we’re not out there prosecuting those cases every day.”
League cannabis prohibition policies have nothing to do with international crime organizations, major distribution networks, RICO-cases, or large amounts of cash. They deal entirely with prohibiting professional athletes from having THC metabolites in their systems due to prior cannabis use. Claiming that Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis is ‘justification’ for keeping cannabis prohibition in place in pro sports is not only ridiculous and unfounded, it’s harmful.
Players are having their careers ruined and their lives harmed because of league cannabis prohibition policies. Players who are penalized for cannabis also see their families deal with a tremendous amount of stigma too, which is very sad on many levels. League cannabis policies should be based on compassion and science, and not the outdated political views of a handful of people.
Professional athletes need to stand up to those that wish to drag their feet on reform via unfounded claims, such as that Jeff Sessions might go after a professional athlete if leagues remove cannabis form their banned substances lists. The National Hockey League (NHL) does not list cannabis on its list of banned substances, and Jeff Sessions has never gone after any NHL player, nor does the Uncle Cliffy team expect him to do so. The same would be true for other sports leagues if they followed the NHL’s lead. It’s time for leagues and player union reps to stop the delay tactics and free the plant!
Opioid use is a very big problem for professional sports leagues. The United States consumes opioids at a greater rate than other countries, and professional athletes consume opioids at a greater rate than the general population. For instance, former National Football League (NFL) players consume opioids at four times the rate of the general population. That is alarming, to say the least.
With that in mind, it’s extremely important for professional sports leagues to explore and incorporate all viable options for reducing opioid consumption rates by their athletes. A number of studies have found that increased access to cannabis can help lower opioid consumption rates which is why the Uncle Cliffy team has advocated so much for leagues to free the plant. We will continue to do so until the leagues show the proper level of compassion for their players.
Below is a press release that was issued today by our friends at NORML which discusses cannabis access and links to lower opioid use:
Patients routinely reduce or eliminate their use of prescription opiates following the use of medical cannabis; two recently published studies reaffirm this relationship.
“The consensus of the available data indicates that cannabis may play a potentially valuable role in mitigating the opioid public health crisis. It is time to set aside canna-bigotry and to stop placing politics ahead of American lives,” said Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director.
In the first study, published by the Minnesota Department of Health, investigators assessed the prescription drug use patterns of 2,245 intractable pain patients participating in the state’s medical cannabis access program. Among those patients known to be taking opiates for pain upon enrollment in the program, 63 percent “were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after six months.” The findings are similar to those of registered patients in other states’ medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico, among others.
In the second study, Israeli researchers assessed the safety and efficacy of cannabis in a cohort of over 1,200 cancer patients over a period of six months. Ninety-six percent of patients “reported an improvement in their condition.” Nearly half of respondents reported either decreasing or eliminating their use of opioids during the treatment period.
A third recently published clinical trial provides insight into explaining this relationship. Investigators from the United States and Australia and assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis and sub-therapeutic doses of oxycodone on experimentally-induced pain in a double-blind, placebo-controlled model. Researchers assessed subjects’ pain tolerance after receiving both substances separately or in concert with one another. While neither the administration of cannabis nor oxycodone alone significantly mitigated subjects’ pain, the combined administration of both drugs did so effectively.
Authors determined, “Both active cannabis and a low dose of oxycodone (2.5 mg) were sub-therapeutic, failing to elicit analgesia on their own; however, when administered together, pain responses … were significantly reduced, pointing to the opioid-sparing effects of cannabis.” They concluded, “Smoked cannabis combined with an ineffective analgesic dose of oxycodone produced analgesia comparable to an effective opioid analgesic dose without significantly increasing cannabis’s abuse liability.”
The new studies add to the growing body of research finding that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths.
Additional information regarding the association between cannabis and opioids is available from NORML’s fact-sheet here.
Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson has been helping lead an effort to reform the harmful, outdated cannabis policy of the National Basketball League (NBA). Current NBA cannabis policy is such that there are no exceptions for cannabis use by NBA players, even when the cannabis use is legal in the state where the consumption takes place, and even when the use is for medical purposes.
The NBA subjects its players to several random cannabis tests throughout the season and has the strictest cannabis testing limit out of the major sports leagues. The NBA’s 15 ng/mL THC metabolite threshold is ten times as strict as what Olympic athletes are held to. Many NBA players have been suspended for cannabis use over the years, including Clifford Robinson (multiple times).
Alcohol use by players is not prohibited by the NBA, despite alcohol being 114 times more harmful than cannabis. The NBA also pushes opioids and other pharmaceutical drugs on its players, despite cannabis being safer a safer, effective alternative. The blatant hypocrisy on the part of the NBA is unacceptable, and a growing number of current and retired players have joined Clifford Robinson in demanding a change.
Cannabis reform in the NBA can come via one of two routes. The first is if NBA leadership decides to end cannabis prohibition, but that does not appear to be likely for whatever reason. The much more likely route is via collective bargaining negotiations between players and owners. In order for that to happen though, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) will have to take the lead on the issue during negotiations.
The sports community gained insight this week into whether or not cannabis reform is on the NBPA’s radar when the executive director of the NBPA, Michele Roberts, participated in an interview with SB Nation and discussed medical cannabis reform in the league. Below is what Michele Roberts had to say, per the interview:
Everyone claims to have done their own independent study. What we want to do is agree on some experts that can sit down and talk to us. My own view is that there are substantial signs that support its efficacy and the value that it has for us, especially pain management. We’re in talks with the league to see where we can go with it.
The obvious future is that marijuana will be decriminalized probably throughout the country in short order. Don’t forget our current attorney general [Jeff Sessions], who has taken a very different approach to his tolerance for this. That makes it a little more difficult.
It is a banned substance in our league right now. If we do go down that road, we have to protect our players from — my words — a crazed attorney general who says he will prosecute violations of the law involving marijuana and he doesn’t care what individual states say.
In other words, I don’t want my guys being arrested at airports in possession of a cannabinoid by some fed. It’s against the law. So, we’ll see.
There is no medical exemption?
No. It does not exist now. We’re exploring it. I think there is some movement toward accepting it as an appropriate use to address pain. But we’re not there yet.
The interview covers multiple points. The first is one that comes up a lot when cannabis reform is discussed – cannabis studies. The fact of the matter is that cannabis is one of the most studied substances known to man, and the Uncle Cliffy team continues to encourage NBA officials to look at the mountain of cannabis research that already exists which shows that cannabis is safe and effective. The current body of studies dealing with cannabis and pain, reducing opioid use, and traumatic brain injuries are of particular importance.
Secondly, Michele Roberts expresses concerns about United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ anti-cannabis views. Those fears are not well founded, and should not serve as justification for continued cannabis prohibition in the NBA. The federal government going after an individual for simply consuming cannabis, including professional athletes, would be unprecedented.
Possessing cannabis on federal property is one thing, as is trying to fly with cannabis (which no one is proposing that athletes should do). But the odds of the federal government going after a professional athlete simply for being a cannabis consumer is very, very low and likely non-existent as the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out previously (here, here, here, and here).
Executive director Roberts’ last words of the excerpt above were disappointing to read. ‘We’re not there yet’ is not good enough. NBA players have to deal with all types of conditions and ailments, and cannabis has been proven to help people that suffer from those conditions and ailments.
Cannabis is safer than other substances that the NBA embraces. Also, cannabis laws have been reformed in one form or another in every state and country that NBA teams are located. Michele Roberts recently attended a cannabis company launch party, so hopefully she is warming up to the idea of cannabis reform in the NBA at a rapid pace. It’s beyond time that the NBA, and the NBPA, got on the ride side of history and put the health and wellness of NBA players above outdated political views. Free the plant!
More background on Uncle Cliffy’s coverage of cannabis and the NBA:
Polling Shows That The NBA’s Fanbase Supports Cannabis Reform
Ending Cannabis Prohibition In The NBA Shouldn’t Be So Difficult
Ex-NBA Commissioner Supports Removing Cannabis From List Of Banned Substances
Report: Adam Silver Says NBA Is Open To Medical Cannabis Reform
Unless you were living under a rock last weekend you know that it was Super Bowl weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in a very exciting game. Super Bowl weekend is one of the most celebrated weekends of the year in the United States, with family and friends gathering all over the country to watch the big game.
Super Bowl weekend is as American as apple pie. Another thing that is becoming as American as apple pie according to new data from last weekend is legal cannabis. Legal cannabis sales surged on Super Bowl weekend, with NFL fans stocking up before attending various gatherings. Per Green Market Report:
The Super Bowl turned into a bonus day of sales for cannabis dispensaries. According to data from software company Flowhub, retailers saw a 32% increase in cannabis sales for the 2018 Super Bowl weekend versus last year’s Super Bowl weekend.
Compared to typical weekend sales, Super Bowl weekend sales jumped 7% and transactions climbed by 12%. Flowhub said that transaction sizes were getting smaller, but the volume of people buying marijuana for the celebration had increased.
“The rise in sales over Super Bowl weekend shows that Americans are continuing to incorporate cannabis into these national celebrations just as they would beer or even guacamole,” said Flowhub CEO Kyle Sherman. “Marijuana is becoming part of the fabric of American society and our national pastimes. I think we will continue to see this trend grow as legalization continues to spread.”
This year’s jump in sales builds on a similar trend from last year. During last year’s Super Bowl weekend legal cannabis sales experienced a 40% jump compared to the same weekend the year prior. The recent statistical report demonstrates that the relationship between cannabis and sports is strong, and getting stronger with every passing year.
For the purpose of cannabis reform in the NFL specifically, this data is important because it highlights how popular cannabis consumption is among NFL fans. That popularity in consumption translates to support for cannabis reform in the NFL among the NFL’s fanbase as proven by several polls which have found that fans support allowing NFL players to consume cannabis. Polling also shows that players themselves, as well as members of sports media, also support cannabis reform.
It’s beyond time that the NFL and the leadership of other professional sports leagues recognize that prohibition has failed and to respect the overwhelming level of support for reform. Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, and safer than a lot of other substances that the NFL and other leagues embrace. The NFL and other leagues need to free the plant.
It is officially Super Bowl week in the National Football League (NFL) and unless you have been living under a rock then you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots this weekend for the NFL title. The big game presents an opportunity for friends and family to get together, to enjoy food, to have some laughs, and hopefully to see a very competitive football game.
The Super Bowl also presents an opportunity for people inside and outside of the NFL to reflect on the league’s cannabis prohibition policy. Currently, the NFL prohibits all forms of cannabis consumption, even when the consumption is in a legal state, and even when the consumption is medical in nature. That is a policy that the Uncle Cliffy team has very publicly opposed, and we will continue to do so until the NFL takes steps to free the plant.
A growing number of current and retired NFL players have been calling on the league to end cannabis prohibition altogether, or at the least allow players to consume cannabis for medical purposes in certain circumstances. The NFL has taken an uncompassionate stance against cannabis use by its players, with a prime example of that being the case of Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson, who uses cannabis to treat a severe case of Crohn’s disease, was previously suspended 10 games for failing a league drug test because of cannabis use. Players like Seantrel Henderson should not be forced to either use more harmful pharmaceuticals, go without medicine altogether, or be forced to retire from the game that he obviously loves playing. A policy that presents only those options to suffering players is unacceptable.
You can send a message to the NFL at this link here. The Uncle Cliffy team is urging everyone to send a message to the NFL to let the league know that fans support letting NFL players make the safer choice. If enough fans make it known that they support cannabis reform in the NFL, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that the NFL will listen. Below is a message from retired NFL players to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calling for him to free the plant:
The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is comprised of retired National Football League (NFL) players that know firsthand that cannabis can help treat the health conditions that many players suffer from. Because of their firsthand experiences with the wellness benefits of the cannabis plant, members of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition are speaking out against the NFL’s cannabis prohibition policy via a message (embedded below) specifically directed towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
With the Super Bowl right around the corner, the message is very timely. The Uncle Cliffy team would like to send a huge hat tip to these gentlemen for standing up for compassion and fighting to free the plant. You can learn more about the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition via their website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
When it comes to the effort to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports, public views about cannabis are very important. After all, it’s the fans that buy the tickets to games, purchase league merchandise, and watch league broadcasts that generate profits for pro sports leagues.
In theory, if the fans support a change in professional sports leagues, the leagues should listen. You will be hardpressed to find something that sports fans support more than ending cannabis prohibition. The results of another poll were released this week which found a record level of support for cannabis legalization in America. Below is more information about it via a press release from our friends at NORML:
Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to polling data compiled by the Pew Research Center. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the firm, which has polled Americans’ views regarding legalization since 1969.
Support is strongest among African Americans (71 percent), Democrats (69 percent), and Independents (65 percent). Support was weakest among Republicans (43 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (38 percent). However, among self-identified Republicans under 40 years of age, 62 percent favor legalization.
Pew’s results are similar to those of other recent national polls. For instance, an October Gallup poll found that 64 percent of the public support making adult cannabis use legal. A Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday reports that 58 percent of voters nationwide back adult use legalization, and 91 percent believe that medical cannabis should be legal. That poll also reports that 70 percent of voters oppose federal interference in state marijuana policies.