Attention NFL, we all smoke pot

Sports writer Gabriella Bermudez. Photo credit: George Johnston

Sports writer Gabriella Bermudez. Photo credit: George Johnston

Josh Gordon, Ace Sanders, Demetri Goodson and Jerome Simpson: They are all talented athletes in the NFL, but all four couldn’t outrun the fate that the NFL had condemned them with.

It’s hard to remember that athletes are normal people like you and me. After all they lead a much more lavish life then we do.

They live in grand houses, drive fancy cars and the size of their salaries makes our jaws drop. It’s hard not to be envious of a person who makes a living doing something we did as a hobby in our youth, but at the end of the day they are no more god-like than the peers you walk by on your way to class.

So why do we hold them to a different caliber than we hold ourselves?

In the United States, 44 percent of the population has admitted to trying marijuana, and about 1 in 10 American says they currently smoke pot.

Four states, as well as the District of Columbia, have already made recreational marijuana use legal, and a total of 23 of the 50 states have made marijuana legal in some form.

While the rest of America celebrates in sparking a joint or taking a bong rip, those in the NFL are forbidden to engage in such celebrations, even the players who live in the states where recreational use is legal.

The drug remains illegal under the league’s substance abuse policy whether a player is on the Broncos, Seahawks or any of the other 30 NFL teams. That means players would still be subject to fines or suspensions for failing drug tests because they have marijuana in their system.

The amount of research done on the benefits of cannabis is extensive. I’m sure most in favor of pot have some kind of personal anecdote about why the medicinal values of marijuana should be further appreciated, and in a way we aren’t wrong.

After all, American football is a brutal sport and at the end of their careers a number of players find themselves seriously injured or disabled and many former NFL players die young.

Chronic pain and mental distress are common across the board, and most NFL team physicians prescribe opioids for pain relief. But these drugs come with serious concerns about addiction and overdose.

According to NFL players, the team physicians are among the most aggressive in pushing use of opioids to treat pain. Last year, former NFL players filed a suit against the NFL alleging that teams conspired to use prescription painkillers to keep players off the injured reserve list. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that several well-known coaches, including Don Shula and Mike Holmgren, told players they would be cut from their team unless they took the prescribed painkillers and played with their pain.

As a result, NFL players are now four times more likely to abuse prescription pain killers. Although some NFL players would rather use medical marijuana to treat the pain, if they test positive during a drug test they risk financial consequences as well as possible suspension.

Despite the NFL’s awareness of the problems with opioid use among players and a recent estimate of 30-40 percent of players using cannabis for pain treatment, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said the league has no intention to change its cannabis policy.

I personally believe in the health benefits of medical marijuana and, with 420 just around the corner, now is the best time to bring attention to this pressing issue. Josh Gordon, for example, is arguably one of the best receivers in the game right now, and I don’t believe he should be penalized for an activity that thousands of Americans partake in everyday.

Gabriella Bermudez can be reached at [email protected] or @gabbybermudez2 on Twitter.