Article by Dave Zirin
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, resembles an outsized caricature of a twenty-first-century pro sports boss. He’s a 75-year-old Republican Party mega-donor, who made his fortune by selling his energy corporation to Enron in 1999 (give him credit for timing.) That’s what’s made Mr. McNair’s comments earlier this week all the more interesting. After saying he would never have a “persistent user of drugs” on his beloved Houston Texans, McNair made a point to add, “I’m not talking about someone who smoked marijuana.”
This might sound about as radical as a Brooklyn Without Limits T-shirt, but for decades the NFL officialdom has discussed marijuana and players who “do pot” like they were bit players from Reefer Madness. In this light, McNair’s statement is more than tacit acceptance of something players have been doing for decades. It’s connected to weed’s recent legal emergence from “the cannabis closet.”
State referenda earlier this month legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Colorado and Washington State. These votes threaten to raise a massive legal and public relations headache for the NFL. Two of their teams, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, now play in states where marijuana is legal. This could have implications for where players choose to go in free agency as well as how players desire to treat their injuries. As a top player who asked to remain anonymous said to me, “I’d rather use marijuana edibles or vaporizer to manage pain over prescription pain pills. Much less addictive and less harmful to kidneys and liver.”
The NFL is trying to nip this, please pardon the expression, in the bud. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello didn’t even let the Election Night confetti fall to the floor before he told USA Today, “The NFL’s policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades. Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program. The Colorado and Washington laws will have no impact on the operation of the policy.” In addition, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal made it even more crystal-clear: “Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have been warned. ‘It’s legal’ won’t be a valid excuse.”
Aiello’s statements sound very iron-clad. The problem is that even by the NFL’s own guidelines, they are not actually true. As Mike Florio on profootballtalk.com pointed out, “The policy prohibits only the ‘illegal use’ of marijuana. While players may not abuse legal substances like alcohol, legal drugs and alcohol may be used.”
Aiello is of course correct that marijuana is on the banned substance list, the content of which is collectively bargained with the NFL Players Association. However, the other legal prescription and non-prescription drugs on that list like ephedrine and adderall have a performance-enhancing as well as a health-endangering component. They can help you train harder, put a brutal strain on your heart and, if taken outside a doctor’s care, be very dangerous. Unless your name is Joey Chestnut and your goal is winning a hot dog eating championship, there is no “performance enhancing” aspect to ingesting weed, and unless your munchies preference involves saturated fats and cholesterol, your heart will be just fine.
Unspoken, amidst the jokes about Denver truly playing in Mile High Stadium, is the fear in the NFL’s front office that a league-wide relaxed marijuana policy in accordance with state laws would be a public relations nightmare. In the bizarre macho ethos of the NFL, alcoholism is ignored, pain killer abuse is encouraged and other violent, off-field behavior is winked at because these are byproducts of the kind of destructive masculinity that the NFL markets every Sunday. Marijuana, in contrast, is for hippies, beatniks and long-hairs.
In reality, weed wouldn’t turn NFL players into extras from Half-Baked. Players will use marijuana either to wind down after a game, as a healthier, less addictive alternative to alcohol, or as a way to manage their pain. This last point is particularly explosive for the NFL. Amidst lawsuits, suicides and documentaries, there is unprecedented attention being paid to the physical toll players have to endure, particularly concussion and brain injury. Medical marijuana is recommended by doctors for headaches, light-sensitivity, sleeplessness and loss of appetite—all of which happen to be symptoms associated with concussions. The idea that the league would deny a player their legal pain relief of choice seems barbaric. It’s their pain and their right to treat it however they see fit.
One active NFL veteran who lives in a state where there is legal medicinal marijuana said to me, “A part of me always wanted to be the first player to test positive, then be able to present [Roger Goodell with] a prescription from my physician and dare him [to do something].”
A player will emerge to challenge the NFL’s policy on grounds that it inhibits their ability to treat their own pain. The NFL will almost certainly go Reefer Madness in response. The NFL thinks they’ll have the public on their side, but they might be in for a rude awakening. Maybe Bob McNair can meet Roger Goodell is Seattle, roll a fat joint and say, “Goodie? You need to chill the hell out.”
On Friday, May 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston will hear oral arguments in a federal lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration for denying University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Lyle Craker a license to grow marijuana for privately funded medical research.
The lawsuit is in response to an August 15, 2011 final order issued by the DEA rejecting its own DEA Administrative Law Judge’s 2007 recommendation that it would be “in the public interest” to grant Prof. Craker the research license. A laboratory at the University of Mississippi, funded by NIDA, is currently the one and only facility in the United States allowed to grow marijuana for research.
Craker is represented in the case by the Washington, D..C., law firm Covington & Burling LLP and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Prof. Craker first applied in June 2001 for a DEA license to start a marijuana production facility at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst under contract to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit research and educational organization whose mission includes developing marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine.
Prior to Craker’s application, NIDA had refused to sell marijuana to two FDA-approved MAPS-sponsored research protocols, preventing the studies from taking place.
In September 2011, NIDA refused to sell marijuana to a third FDA-approved MAPS-sponsored protocol, this one of 50 U.S. veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), preventing it from taking place.
MAPS and Craker are working to open the door for privately funded drug development studies conducted under FDA regulations.
Despite increasingly widespread recognition of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits and formal policies in 17 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government still irrationally insists that marijuana is a “dangerous drug” with “no medical value.”
Even if MAPS and Craker’s efforts to open the door for privately funded, federally regulated nonprofit medical marijuana research are successful it will likely take a decade for marijuana to become an FDA-approved prescription medicine. In the meantime, getting PTSD patients access to the treatments they need will depend on the continuing success of state-based medical marijuana policy reform.
Written by Steve Elliot
A policy barring foreign tourists from buying marijuana in the Netherlands went into effect in parts of the country Tuesday, with attention focused on the southern city of Maastricht, where a cafe was warned over violating the ban and a buyers’ protest is planned for later in the day.
Weed is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but it has been sold openly for decades in small amounts in designated cafes known as “coffee shops” under the country’s famed tolerance policy.
Under a government policy change, as of May 1, only holders of a “weed pass” are supposed to be allowed to purchase the drug in three southern provinces. Nonresidents aren’t eligible for the pass, which means tourists are effectively banned.
The policy isn’t supposed to go into effect in Amsterdam, home to around a third of the country’s coffee shops, until next year — and it may never be. The city opposes the idea and the conservative national government collapsed last week, raising questions about whether a new Cabinet will persevere with the policy change after elections are held in September.
Most attention Tuesday was on the city of Maastricht, which borders both Belgium and Germany and which has suffered the effects of a constant flow of traffic from non-Dutch Europeans driving to the city just to purchase as much cannabis as possible and drive back home.
Most shops in Maastricht plan to refuse to use the pass and kept their doors shut Tuesday.
There was one exception: the “Easy Going” shop of Marc Josemans, chairman of the coffee shop owners’ association, which remained open just long enough to provoke two legal conflicts he hopes may ultimately derail the policy.
First Josemans turned away a group of foreigners who oppose the rule, and who went to the police to file a discrimination complaint. Then he started selling weed to anybody willing to buy, without checking for passes.
“The police paid me a visit about a half an hour later and warned me I was violating the new rules, and if I do it again, I’ll be closed down for a month,” he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.
Josemans said he planned to continue selling to all comers, and he fully expects to see his shop closed. His response to that would be to take his case to the European Court of Justice.
“Discrimination is never the right answer,” he said.
Early reports from other affected cities — Tilburg, Roermond and Eindhoven, among others — were that most shops were either remaining closed, or ignoring the pass.
“They’ll wait it out until this whole pass plan goes away,” Josemans said.
Even most Dutch weed smokers aren’t getting the passes, assuming the law won’t be enforced. Some are worried the information they have obtained a weed pass will somehow leak from a government database and cause them difficulties with health care insurance or getting a mortgage.
A former chairman of the Netherlands’ Police Union Hans van Duijn told reporters in front of “Easy Going” that he believes the new policy’s negative side effects will outweigh any benefits and that enforcing it would waste precious resources.
“Everyone who is rejected here will walk a few meters (yards) down the street to the drug dealers who drive over from Rotterdam, among other places, and ride around in large numbers,” he said.
Robert Anthony, a Belgian, said he “regularly” comes to the Netherlands “to buy weed in peace.”
He predicted it will be “chaos on the streets very soon.”
Ironically, the reason the Dutch tolerance policy got going in the 1970s was not on the theory that marijuana was OK — it has always been viewed as a public health problem — but because containing it in shops seemed like a pragmatic way to deal with the problems caused by street dealing.
But a growing body of evidence linking the drug to mental illness and a decade-long shift to the political right in the Netherlands has already led to minor changes in the policy, notably the closure of many shops located near schools or known for causing problems.
But the weed pass policy represents a significant change.
Asked whether he thought the policy will succeed, Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said he was certain it will.
“The next Cabinet can always roll back everything, but they will continue prudent policies,” he said. “I think this is smart policy, so I’m not worried about that.”
Article written thanks to Toby Sterling. (Amsterdam, NL)
So, the MJMB have booked are flights to Denver for 420 this year. We will be heading out west to attend the High Times 2012 Medical Cannabis Cup in Denver on April 21st and 22nd, but figured we might as well head out a day early to celebrate the big day in style. Here’s a link to the event site, High Times 2012 Medical Cannabis Cup.
If you find a link to a sick pumpkin… put it in a comment on this post, tweet it at us, or post it up like a stamp on Facebook.
Happy Hallo-weed to all the pot heads, stoners, compassionate care patients, weed dealers, ganja farmers, cannabis connoisseurs, and even the people who smoked it once and didn’t like it.