If the NFL Were More Lenient About Pot, Would the Players Get Involved in Less Drunken Violence?

Human Rights

A week ago, I blogged about MTV’s Real World program and how it is almost a microcosm of society insofar as participants are banned from using marijuana and end up consuming copious amounts of alcohol instead. This excessive alcohol use, both on the show and in the real real world, repeatedly leads to acts of violence and other offensive and/or dangerous acts. Yet our laws – and the rules on the Real World – continue to steer people away from marijuana and toward alcohol, which is clearly a more dangerous drug.

This week, the media world is buzzing with news of an alleged sexual assault by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The least surprising aspect of these reports is that the incident occurred at a club in which alcohol is served. We do not know at this point whether Big Ben was drinking or whether the alleged victim was drinking, but there have been reports that young women were recruited from the main part of the club back to a VIP room where the quarterback was holding court. One article noted that “free drinks” were part of the enticement.

I don’t want to delve into whether a criminal act was or was not committed that night. That is for the legal system to determine. My reason for bringing up this incident is to point out how it is in some ways a result of the policies of the National Football League.

Let’s assume for a second that no alleged sexual assault occurred that night. Would we ever have heard about Big Ben’s night out? Of course not. But what if, instead of trolling for young women, he had spent the evening chillin’ with friends, enjoying some marijuana, listening to tunes and shooting pool. A couple months later, we might have read – as we did after Ricky Williams made the “mistake” of using marijuana – that he had been suspended for four games for violating the league’s banned substance policy.

This is the league’s policy. Go to a club and drink – No problem. Stay at home and enjoy a little marijuana – Get suspended.

Every player in the league is aware of this policy. And just like every other red-blooded American, they are looking to have a little fun during their free time. If one source of fun is banned and the other is acceptable, they are going to choose the option that does not get them in trouble. But we see all too frequently that heading out to a club eventually results in trouble – from fights to sexual assaults and even shootings.

I am not suggesting that the NFL ban alcohol or prohibit players from frequenting clubs. The players are adults and need to make smart decisions about their lives. If they screw up, that is their problem. But it would make a heck of a lot of sense if the NFL removed marijuana from its list of banned substances. Give players the option of making the safer choice when they relax, unwind or party.

Sure, players who use marijuana might still get in trouble with local law enforcement. And if they do, they will have to deal with the consequences. But the NFL has no reason to blindly and ignorantly mimic the government’s irrational marijuana policies. At some point even the government will stop the insanity and will allow adults to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer. For now, the NFL needs to adopt that policy itself.

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