As I scuttled about the house this morning getting my children ready for school and reflecting on the happenings at the polls last night I listened, as I do most mornings, to local Sports Radio. On both the Press Box on Mile High Sports Radio and Klatt and Evans on 104.3 the Fan, the end of marijuana prohibition in Colorado was the chosen topic of the day. Naturally, the subject was broached mostly with humor. The hosts stereotyped people, poked fun and guffawed about the slacker hippies that showed up to the polls to make sure they got their weed legalized. There were the obligatory references to Doritos and video games and ample laughter as what is clearly a very serious issue to many Coloradans was lampooned .
Under the surface, however, I sensed some legitimate concern. All joking aside, the talkers speculated as to how Colorado's new stance on Mary-Jane would impact the Sports world. Would teams use the law to attract free agents? How will the leagues respond when it comes to testing? Has the green light been given to athletes to become stoners? Will Carmelo demand to be traded back?
The reality is that marijuana legalization will not impact workplace policies or allow participants in any major sports league any leeway that they were not already afforded. Amendment 64 will change nothing.
Prior to the Amendment's passing, marijuana was already being prescribed as "medicine" in Colorado. People who had been issued a "Medical Marijuana Card" were already allowed to own up to four plants and purchase up to an ounce of weed per week. To put that in perspective, Snoop Dog himself would be hard pressed to plow through more that about a quarter of that allotment on a weekly basis. In other words, patients had plenty left for sharing. If you wanted some marijuana on Monday, it was just was easy to get as it will be on Friday - or a year from Friday.
Athletes already smoked pot. Some estimates put the percentage on NFL players who use the drug as high as 50%. It would be naive to think that the number isn't even higher in the NBA. No matter what city they play in, athletes can find all the pot they want. And they do. It's an open secret - and testing only ensnares the most egregious and careless offenders.
When was the last time a player was suspended by the NBA for testing positive for weed?
Lindsay Jones, formerly of the Denver Post, now with USA Today, crafted a piece for publication today that reinforced the stance of the leagues. Greg Aiello, a Spokesman for the NFL told Jones: "The NFL's policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades. Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program." NBA Spokesman Mike Bass said basically the same thing: "Marijuana is a prohibited substance under our collectively bargained anti-drug program". That's their story and they're sticking to it. Amendment 64 won't create any access for professional athletes that wasn't already there for them before.
Leagues have largely turned a blind eye to pot for some time. Not in an official way, but in more of a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of way. As long as athletes stay under the radar they get away with using. And they should. Let's face it, players are pumped full of whatever team doctors deem safe for them to be pumped full of just so long as it gets them back on the field faster. Players are administered hundreds of different types of drugs for the management of pain. Drugs such as Toradol, an anti-inflammatory that makes athletes feel good enough to play whether or not they're healthy enough to, put them at far greater risk than a little bit of marijuana. And use the of dangerous pain killers ofter continues well beyond an athlete's playing career.
The truth may be that marijuana would be an extremely useful thing in professional sports. It could potentially be a substitute for any number of far more dangerous things that are included in the arsenals of physicians who treat athletes. Nobody says you have to smoke the stuff, either. "Edibles" and "Ingestibles" are more and more common, especially in places like Colorado. Players wouldn't need to walk around smelling like Cheech and Chong in order to benefit from marijuana.
Amendment 64 isn't going to enhance player access to marijuana in Colorado. Maybe it should, though.
For the leagues to endorse myriad types of injections, anti-inflammatories, pain killers and borderline performance-enhancers to extract the maximum performance from athletes with little regard for their future health, and then turn around and ban marijuana use is hypocritical at best. The leagues know this, and that's why they enforce their drug policies only when they have to.
The novelty of Amendment 64 will take some time to wear off. Colorado is the only State in the Nation to have ended the prohibition of marijuana. And so long as it's new, and Colorado remains unqiue, people will make jokes and chuckle about hippies, blunts and Bob Marley. But, what the voters of Colorado did yesterday is serious. It's historic. No to allow our athletes to take advantage is shameful. Not to use it as a lure for players is silly. But, when it comes to sports, Amendment 64 changed nothing.