liquor advertising nfl marijuana cannabis

The National Football League (NFL) prohibits cannabis consumption by any of its athletes, regardless of where they live, and regardless of the purpose behind the consumption. Players are drug tested and if they have more than 35 ng/mL of THC metabolites in their system, they are punished. In some cases, such as that of Seantrel Henderson of the Buffalo Bills, players can punished very harshly, even though the use was entirely medical in nature.

A big push has been underway to try to convince the NFL to change its policy. The NFL has improved its policy over the years, having raised the allowable THC metabolite limit from 15 ng/mL to 35 ng/mL, but that is not nearly enough. To put it into perspective, the Olympics allows up to 150 ng/mL. The National Hockey League (NHL) doesn’t even list cannabis as a banned substance at all. A very prominent NFL team owner, along with dozens of NFL players (current and retired) have been calling on the league to update its harmful policy, yet the NFL continues to cling to 100% prohibition.

One reason for continuing cannabis prohibition, as recently offered up by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is that cannabis has ‘no medical value.’ As the Uncle Cliffy team pointed out at the time, that claim by Mr. Goodell is not only inaccurate, it is also harmful since it damages the constructive conversation surrounding cannabis and players’ health. Cannabis absolutely has medical value, and could do a lot to help suffering NFL players. Cannabis has been the subject of more studies than hydrocodone, toradol, and tylenol – combined. Those are three substances that the NFL widely embraces.

Another substance that the NFL widely embraces is alcohol. The NFL gladly accepts advertising dollars from the alcohol industry, with one six-year deal with Bud Light being worth $1.4 billion dollars alone. A big reason that the NFL also points to as justification for continuing cannabis prohibition is that it is being done ‘for the health of the players.’ But if you consider the fact that cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, and that alcohol is embraced while cannabis is prohibited, it’s easy to see that the NFL’s current stance is incredibly hypocritical.

That hypocrisy was on further display this week when it was announced that the NFL plans to allow liquor advertising next season. Per Bleacher Report:

On Friday, Joe Flint and Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal reported all ads for distilled spirits will need to include a “prominent social responsibility message.” An NFL executive told the outlet the league is treating the policy as a “one-season test” but expects it to continue.

The NFL will allow four advertisements for hard liquor during each game, and the league’s television partners can also feature two during pregame and postgame shows, according to Flint and Vranica. Meanwhile, products like birth control, energy drinks, gambling venues and marijuana in states where it’s legal remain banned.

Another reason that the NFL has cited as justification for keeping prohibition in place is the classic ‘what about the children’ argument. The NFL seems to think that allowing players to use medical cannabis in a legal state will ‘send the wrong message to kids.’ The Uncle Cliffy team wholeheartedly agrees that cannabis should be kept away from children. But what message does it send to kids that it’s OK to accept money to advertise a substance that kills 88,000 people annually (alcohol), but that it’s not OK for a grown adult in a legal state to use a safe, effective medicine like cannabis?

The Uncle Cliffy team is not saying that alcohol should be prohibited by any means. We firmly believe that adults should be able to consume alcohol and/or cannabis if they choose, as long as it is done responsibly. The point that the Uncle Cliffy team is trying to make is why is cannabis still being prohibited if the NFL is willing to allow liquor to be advertised during games, presumably to audiences that will include children, when cannabis is clearly safer than alcohol? How does that not send the message that greed is greater than compassion?

image via Wikipedia