December 30, 2018

The pros and cons of marijuana use in pro sports

Aaron Lavitsky ‘19

Image result for marijuana sports

With the rise in legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana within the United States, several forms of cannabis are now more accessible than ever. As new information is discovered about the positive effects of the drug, its properties as a supplement to ease pain and enhance physical recovery have gained recognition.
This has led to a polarizing debate within the sports world: should cannabis use be legal for athletes?
The question has elicited different responses from different sports communities. Athletes in the NBA and NFL are overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing marijuana within their league. Football players are especially in favor of using cannabis, as the physical nature of the sport requires a lot of pain recovery, which cannabis would aid.
“Cannabis is the perfect medicine for athletes,” Eben Britton, a former NFL offensive lineman and founder of Athletes for Care, said.
Athletes for Care is one of the many organizations of the pro-athletic-cannabis movement. The non-profit was founded by 26 athletes from several different sports with the intent of providing athletes with pathways to alternative medicine and recovery, including the use of cannabis.
The views on cannabis amongst athletes are generally the same – even those who don’t use it themselves acknowledge that to some, cannabis can be helpful. An overwhelming consensus of American athletes are in favor of cannabis use within sports, however the same cannot be said about those in sports administrative positions.
Because of the history that many sports have with performing enhancing drugs, league officials and team executives are hesitant to allow drugs of any kind within their respective sports. Despite the scientific evidence that points to cannabis having positive effects on the athletic recovery process, with no performance enhancing element, league officials refuse to allow its use, with most sports leagues, like the NBA, MLB and NFL, issuing strict drug testing policies.
This becomes the main issue athletes have with sports leagues and their views on cannabis use. Even if an athletes obtains cannabis in a state where it is legalized in all forms, they can be penalized with multi-game suspensions or fines that hinder their seasons. This is especially the case in the NFL, where the norm for a marijuana-related suspension is four games, a quarter of the their season.
Change may be on the horizon, however. Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, with many others allowing medical marijuana use.
Several athletes, including current Tennessee Titans linebacker and Athletes for Care team member, Derrick Morgan, have been outspoken in their support and use of therapeutic cannabis. Even NBA players like former New York Knicks forward Al Harrington and former Golden State Warriors forward Matt Barnes own stake in companies that make cannabis products.
These athletes hope that legalization of marijuana use within sports is just around the corner. Barnes admits that some of his best games came when he used cannabis. He, along with fellow NBA athletes, hope their discussing the use of cannabis in sports will help create change in the future.

“It’s time to break the stigma,” Barnes stated confidently.

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