As more and more states have adopted laws permitting the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana, momentum has been building toward softening the NFL’s clear, unambiguous, blanket policy against the substance. That momentum may be slowing down.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer drew a distinction on Thursday between medical and recreational marijuana, suggesting that the pending federal prohibition regarding marijuana use could be used to push back against states that allow it recreationally.
“There’s a big difference between [medicinal marijuana] and recreational marijuana,” Spicer said, via Forbes.com. “I think that when you see the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by in terms of when it comes to recreational marijuana.”
That shouldn’t be a surprise, given the appointment of long-time marijuana opponent Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has said in the past, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and that legalization of marijuana “is, in fact, a very real danger.” However, at his confirmation hearing, Sessions suggested that a showdown with the states that have legalized marijuana could result in an undue strain on the federal government’s overall resources.
President Trump has said that the marijuana issue should be handled “state-by-state,” and that “medical should happen.” However, it could be that the states now allowing recreational marijuana use (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts) and that those considering joining the jointing trend will be forced to reverse course, sooner than later.
That could throw a wrench into efforts by the NFL Players Association to make the current rules against marijuana “less punitive” regarding recreational marijuana use. At a minimum, it could make the NFL want an even bigger concession to change a policy that both sides agreed to, years ago.
Regardless of whether the federal government rolls back laws allowing the recreational rolling up of cigarettes that don’t contain tobacco, NFL players will continue to smoke marijuana. Under the current policy, players who are smart about when they smoke — and when they temporarily don’t — can smoke marijuana for most of the year without professional consequence. Players who want to smoke apparently will need to continue to be smart and discreet about it, or they eventually will face large fines and lengthy suspensions, culminating in banishment from the league.