In the United States, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Along with these states, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. With more states removing the ban, many former and current players have spoken out about the issue, expressing different opinions on what the NFL should do.
Medical marijuana has been shown to relieve some of the pain of diseases such as cancer and AIDS, but the federal government has not removed the ban on marijuana and neither has the NFL. According to an ESPN SportsNation poll, 78 percent of of the roughly 35,000 people who voted think the NFL should remove the marijuana ban.
“We’re just going to do it anyway,” New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said, “They just need to let it go. They need to go ahead and say, ‘Y’all go ahead, smoke it, do what you need to do.'”
Cromartie isn’t the only one who thinks the NFL should repeal the ban. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark said he agrees with Cromartie, noting that he knows players on the Steelers who smoke it.
“I know guys on my team who smoke [marijuana],” Clark said,“and it’s not a situation where you think, ‘Oh, these are guys trying to be cool.’ These are guys who want to do it recreationally.”
Opinions on this issue in the NFL community are not unanimous, however. Former NFL quarterback Mark Brunell said that instead of allowing players to use marijuana, the NFL should continue to oppose it and crack down on testing.
“I believe it’s harmful,” Brunell said. “I believe it has a negative effect on not only NFL players, but anybody that does it.”
Former NFL linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who played in two Super Bowls (Super Bowl XLI with the Chicago Bears in 2007, and Super Bowl XLVII with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013) said that in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, some of his teammates were smoking marijuana. Ayanbadejo wouldn’t say who it was or which Super Bowl it was.
“I’m not going to say which Super Bowl it was, but I just remember getting off the elevator one night — it was early on in the week, just to start the week off — and all of the sudden I just got hit over the head with fumes of marijuana on the entire floor of the hotel that the team was staying on,” Ayanbadejo said, “I could just imagine there were a few young guys just toking it up in more than one room. I was like, ‘Man, this is the week of the Super Bowl, and you’re just going in?’”
Many current and former NFL players have been caught with marijuana and faced repurcussions. One of the most recent busts was safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from the Louisiana State University football team in August 2012 for failing multiple drug tests. He missed the entire 2012 NCAA season.
Despite strong arguments from players on both sides of the issue, the final decision is up to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell said he does not plan on releasing the ban, but with more and more states legalizing marijuana, this could change opinions.