Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How will legalization of marijuana effect sports leagues policies regarding marijuana use?

The question in the title of this post is posed by one of my seminar students who will be presenting on this topic to the rest of the class this afternoon.  Here is introduction for his colleagues and others interested in this engaging query:

Many players are pushing towards open marijuana policies because of the potential health benefits of marijuana use. Players argue that they can be taking marijuana instead of other synthetic pain killers to keep them on the field or court.  The players arguments generally fall on deaf ears, the league doesn't want to have any of it.  

Here’s why; The league is concerned about its image.  In the code of every sports league is the phrase, “integrity of the game.” In other words, the league has the responsibility to uphold the integrity of the game.  This applies to players conduct both on and off  the field.

For conduct on the field, the league is concerned that marijuana use will effect players ability to play the game.  The players abilities may become diminished by the use of marijuana which in turn would diminish the competitive integrity of the game.  What if marijuana use improved players ability to play the game – would the league ban it similar to steroids or would the league embrace it because it makes the game more exciting?  (Marijuana does not have the negative consequences typically associated with steroids, an argument for  allowing its use.)

For conduct off the field, the league is concerned about its image. Every league has “body image issues.”

  • NFL – Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Josh Gordon
  • NBA – Donald Sterling…
  • Olympics – Michael Phelps

The list goes on and on. The leagues want to keep a sterling image and the concern is that allowing marijuana use will taint their image. They are unlikely to move until marijuana use is more accepted. Its just good to keep things how they are for business purposes. They don't want to alienate fans.

On the other hand, leagues have  incredible ability to shape policy.  The leagues may even pave the way for legalization and normalization of marijuana use to treat pain if they would embrace the players requests. The more medical discovery regarding concussions and other ailments and its treatment of marijuana the more likely the leagues will become a factor in this arena.

Maybe even some leagues will fund a study?

Other interesting articles:

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2016/03/how-will-legalization-of-marijuana-effect-sports-leagues-policies-regarding-marijuana-use.html

Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink

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