The NFL should stop wasting its time on marijuana

One decade ago, the vast majority of Americans felt marijuana should remain illegal. That has since been completely reversed as the nation has swiftly changed its outlook on weed. And so as more and more states move toward legalizing pot, the NFL has to consider making dramatic changes to its policy on the drug, which is still illegal on a federal level.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported earlier this week that the league was headed down that path by implementing “a less strict standard for a failed marijuana test.” The NFLPA knows that the league’s current policy on marijuana is outdated, mainly because everyone from Olympic athletes and air traffic controllers have more leeway in this area.

We keep hearing about how loosening up marijuana laws and punishments nationwide will help alleviate the strain on the prison system. That doesn’t apply here, but it’s the same basic idea. It’s become silly seeing good players forced to sit out four or more games at a time merely for smoking weed.

And when good players are suspended for such mild offenses, it has an impact on the quality of play. If I’m a season-ticket holder and have a favorite player, and I can’t see that guy for several games because of a failed marijuana test, I’m probably pretty pissed off.

Unfortunately, red tape is still blocking progress here. In order to get the league to chill out on marijuana testing, the players might have to cave elsewhere as the two sides attempt to agree on a new drug policy. This is part of a larger package, and Pro Football Talk reported this week that nothing had been settled yet.

There’s also the fact that many of the current owners and front-office folks are dinosaurs with Reagan mentalities — those who buy into the notions of reefer madness. I touched on this during a radio interview I was doing earlier this week, and one of the hosts came back in defense of a strict marijuana policy “because these guys are role models.”

First of all, they didn’t ask to be role models, and I’d argue that they shouldn’t be viewed that way. I’ll be sure that my kids have many role models, and not all of them will be professional athletes.

But on top of that, let’s keep in mind that by only punishing players who get into legal trouble for marijuana use or possession, less attention will actually be given to the issue. As a result, kids will hear less about their favorite athletes smoking weed, which is something that was going to happen regardless.

The reality is that we’re moving in a direction in which marijuana is becoming more acceptable nation-wide, which is good from a financial perspective, regardless of your moral stance. And if the NFL doesn’t get on board, it’ll have a negative impact on the league.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.