20 states have legalized medical marijuana. But NFL players who live there can’t use pot. Bong Bowl. Reefer Bowl. Stoner Bowl. These names are emerging leading up to this year’s Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.
Colorado and Washington are the only two states with legalized recreational marijuana in the country. Despite marijuana’s growing legalization — medical marijuana is legal in 20 states, plus D.C. — the National Football League bans marijuana use for all its players, even if they live in those states.
Marijuana falls under the league’s substance abuse policy, which is collectively bargained with the NFL Players Association. “If our medical advisers informed us that medical marijuana may be used, then it’s something we would discuss with the NFLPA. Advisers are not telling us that now,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a group advocating marijuana legalization, has been pushing the NFL to allow players to use marijuana. In September, MPP posted a billboard for a month outside the Denver Broncos stadium encouraging the NFL not to punish players who use marijuana. “Players can consume as much alcohol as they want without fear of punishment by the league. If they prefer to use marijuana, they risk losing their livelihood,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for MPP, in a phone interview with USA TODAY Network.
MPP also created an online petition on Change.org, calling on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the league’s marijuana policy. The petition, now closed, received more than 11,800 signatures. Last week, in response to a question about allowing marijuana use in the NFL, Goodell said, “I do not know what is going to develop in medicine as the next opportunity, to evolve either to help with pain or help with injuries. But we will continually support the evolution of medicine because we believe it is important to our players,” according to ESPN.
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick recognized the temptation of legalized marijuana to his players. He warned them not to “be stupid” about using marijuana before Sundays’ American Football Conference Championship game in Denver. Despite the ban on marijuana, two former NFL players point to marijuana use in the league. Former NFL offensive tackle Lomas Brown told The Detroit News in 2012 that at least 50% of NFL players likely smoke pot. Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson wrote in his book Slow Getting Up about his personal use of marijuana to manage pain. Jackson wrote pain is a “big problem” in the NFL.
Regardless of the trending names like #BongBowl and #WeedBowl on Twitter, don’t expect fans to smoke up at the actual game — it’s taking place in New Jersey.
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