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The Increasing Prevalence of Cannabis in the NFL - Number of Suspensions Rising Over the Years
By: Megan Rubio

Fire Friday: The Increasing Prevalence of Cannabis in the NFL - Number of Suspensions Rising Over the Years

Recently, the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy suspended Buffalo Bills’ offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. He was suspended for 10 games, due to his use of medical marijuana to treat his Crohn’s disease Despite using marijuana for medicinal purposes, the NFL does not recognize marijuana as a form of treatment.

The substance abuse policy applies to two categories of drugs: performance-enhancing drugs and drugs that are used for recreational purposes. Numerous players have been penalized in the last couple of years alone. Of the many, there are only some cases that have specified that the suspensions were due to marijuana usage. Some of the occurrences are included below:

-In August of 2014, LeGarrette Blount, running back for the New England Patriots, received a one game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, when he was pulled over by police who found marijuana in his car.

-In January of 2015, Datone Jones, defensive end for the Green Bay Packers, was ticketed for marijuana possession. In July of that year, he received a one game suspension

-In January of 2015, Oday Aboushi, an offensive lineman for the New York Jets, was pulled over by police for a traffic stop. He had a small amount of marijuana in his possession, which caused him to be in violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. In August, he received a 1 game suspension

-In February of 2015, Letroy Guion, defensive tackle of the Green Bay Packers, was charged with possession of marijuana. In July of 2015, he received a 3 game suspension

-In July of 2015, Sheldon Richardson, defensive end for the New York Jets, tested positive for marijuana and received a 4 game suspension

-In August of 2015, Martavis Bryant, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, received a 4 game suspension for failing a marijuana drug test. In 2016, he was found to have violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy again, and in March was suspended for an entire season.

-In March of 2016, Josh Gordon, receiver for the Cleveland Browns, failed a drug test for marijuana. While he was below the threshold of 35 nanograms, the sample was diluted which was the same as a positive test by NFL standards. In July of 2016, he received a 4 game suspension.

-In August of 2016, Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills, received a four game suspension for “failed or missed drug tests involving his use of marijuana.”

Undeniably, suspensions over the last couple of years for violating the substance abuse policies have increased significantly. In the wake of vocal support for medical marijuana, NFL team owners have expressed flexibility on changing the NFL’s stance The NFL Player’s Association is also forming a committee to determine if marijuana could be an effective pain-management option for players. As medical and recreational legalization sweep the nation, the NFL will have to determine if they want to abide by federal laws or if they’ll have a more flexible approach to marijuana use in the future.


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