Professional sports have a grave effect on the human body. Sure, the physical exertion required for participation has obvious positive health benefits allowing many professional athletes to be in peak condition, but the human body is only equipped to handle so much.
In a sport such as football, which has long-surpassed the limits of the human body and mind, injuries are often and pain is constant. Yet, when players find means to heal those injuries or dull that pain, the NFL is quick to reprimand them by handing out suspensions or levying fines.
One of the most recent examples comes after the NFL – with its almighty authoritarian supremacy – imposed a 10-game suspension on Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson last week for violation of the NFLs substance abuse policy.
Let me provide a quick recap: Henderson was diagnosed with Crohns disease last year before undergoing an operation in January to remove a portion of diseased intestines, which were reattached in April. To help deal with the pain accompanied by his condition, Henderson has utilized medical marijuana, a form of medication that is legal in the state of New York. He then failed a drug screening, prompting the suspension.
Now, I do realize that the pain of an ailment such as Crohns disease and the pain associated with playing football are different, and that one is genetic and the other is voluntary, but pain is pain nonetheless.
The NFLs prohibition of marijuana is patently foolhardy to begin with considering the known benefits it has in treating a variety of ailments, including pain. And with more and more states legalizing the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana (well over 30 percent of the NFLs players now belong to teams residing in those states), the time has come for that ban to be reevaluated.
It goes without saying that substance abuse is a big issue in this country. From every corner of the nation communities are being plagued with some type of drug. Here in the Tri-County, and this region as a whole, it is methamphetamine.
My inbox is overflowing on a weekly basis regarding arrests in the Times-Tribunes coverage area, an overwhelming majority of which involves meth. It is sincerely disheartening to see the physical and psychological hold a drug such as meth has on a person.
But were not talking about meth, were talking about marijuana; a drug derived from a plant that grows from the earth and is non-addictive, natural and much safer than more commonly-used substances such as alcohol. And yes, while it can technically be abused, I could argue that practically anything else on the planet can be as well. Too much of anything is typically never good. Food, for example, is a necessity. Too much of it, however, is not advisable (trust me, I know from experience).
Even if the NFL were to loosen its substance abuse policy to decriminalize marijuana, theres still the lingering issue that 22 of the NFLs 32 teams are based in states that still outlaw marijuana entirely. With those restrictions, players may be permitted to use marijuana legally from an NFL standpoint but would still be disobeying state and federal law in doing so.
The short answer is simple: legalize marijuana. It can then be regulated, taxed and controlled. Colorado alone reportedly collected over $70 million in tax revenue for their 2015 fiscal year, outperforming even alcohol. Furthermore, the enforcement of marijuana laws in America is a tremendously expensive endeavor, with billions of dollars being spent each year to police its unlawfulness.
From a fiscally responsible perspective, the legalization of marijuana seems fairly logical. But with the stigma that has been placed on marijuana since it was outlawed in the 1930s, the chance of it being lifted from the governments list of Schedule I drugs (the ones deemed most dangerous, which also includes the likes of heroin and bath salts) is likely not happening anytime soon.
Despite the governments position on marijuana, the NFLs punishment of Henderson is highly excessive. The 10-game suspension will leave Henderson out for the remainder of this football season and a portion of next years, all without pay. A subsequent suspension could result in permanent banishment from the league.
The NFLs substance abuse policy is ultimately meant to prevent players from gaining a competitive edge through the use of substances like human growth hormone, which can enhance athletic performance, creating an unfair advantage. Though, when held up against the sins the NFL knowingly commits – giving players Torodal shots on the sideline to dampen pain, covering up head trauma research findings of deceased NFL players and attempting to discredit researchers, etc. – allowing a player to use marijuana to treat the effects of a disease would be at the absolute bottom of that list.
While football may be just a game, it is also this mans livelihood, and thats not something the league should be able to meddle in.