Sports and Marijuana

The sports world treats marijuana use too harshly by Patrick Hruby at Sports on Earth.

I love seeing drug policy reform articles in media aimed at other interests, because it helps reach new audiences, and certainly the sports crowd is one we’d like to get motivated.

It’s one thing for voters and politicians alike to make and cling to bad laws. That’s kind of what both groups do. It’s another thing entirely for what seems like the whole sports world — the same oft-progressive place that gave us Jackie Robinson standing up to segregation, Billie Jean King battling sexism and Muhammad Ali just saying no to the Vietnam War — to blithely and counterproductively follow suit. [...]

Marijuana policy across sports should follow suit. The Houston Texans and Florida Atlantic can’t force the federal government to decriminalize pot. But they could be less uptight within their own organizations. So could leagues and governing bodies. There’s no need to test athletes for weed (most employers don’t); no need to punish them for use (leave that to the actual legal system); no need to play part-time Crockett and Tubbs when even Attorney General Eric Holder admits that federal prosecutors have no plans to go after marijuana smokers in states that permit recreational use. At the very least, the sports world could adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell approach — one that pays lips service to traditional anti-marijuana laws and social mores while recognizing those same laws and mores are rapidly shifting. [...]

Once upon a time, racially integrated competition was unthinkable. So were openly gay athletes. Things change. Marijuana already is legally considered medicine in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Three years ago, an ABC News poll found that 8 of 10 Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use. Just last month, a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of the country favors legalization for recreational use as well — the first time ever that a majority of the country has supported legalization, and a 10 percent rise in a year’s time. Again, things change. Sports should, too. The alternative is shortsighted. Behind the curve. Just plain dumb. Enough with the Reefer Madness. The real problem with the Texans’ trio isn’t that they (allegedly) smoked pot; it’s that they did so a decade too soon. For Florida Atlantic’s sake, I hope Pelini robbed a bank.

It’s time for the sports world to stop their own additional misguided war against marijuana.

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