It’s time for the NFL to end its ban on marijuana

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Tight end Demetrius Harris
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Tight end Demetrius Harris /

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones proposed easing the NFL’s stance against marijuana use. Here’s why that’s a great idea.

Demetrius Harris is coming off his best year as a backup tight end for the Chiefs. That isn’t exactly saying a lot, as Harris hasn’t been a productive player for the Chiefs since he joined them in 2013. He is more known for some passes he’s dropped than ones he’s caught. However, he changed that perspective a bit this year after hauling in some great catches, providing of the most memorable plays of the year in the process. Harris caught the game-tying two-point conversion in Denver as well as Dontari Poe’s touchdown pass in Kansas City, both against the Broncos. The potential has always been there, and it showed positive signs of things to come.

Unfortunately, Harris was arrested on March 7 on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Getting arrested is never a good thing, especially when you’re within range of the roster bubble. Being as this is Harris’s first offense and that it happened during the offseason, it’s unlikely he will suffer any major punishment. Considering repeat offender Dwayne Bowe only received a one-game suspension for his arrest in 2009, Harris shouldn’t expect any kind of suspension.

The real question is should players like Harris even have to worry about getting punished for using marijuana? As the rules state today, yes, there are punishments for getting caught with marijuana. All the players know these rules, and they should follow them if they don’t want punished. I don’t feel sorry for anyone who breaks a rule they know all about. I do think those punishments should fit previous punishments, so for example, Harris should only expect to be fined.

Nothing can be done until the NFL and the Player’s Association negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Only then could marijuana officially be removed from the banned substance list. Unfortunately until then, it’s a rule that everyone hates but one with which everyone must live.

For the owners, who wants to worry about player suspension when dealing with the already difficult task of roster construction. For the players, the use of marijuana has both recreational and medical use. Marijuana has been used as a medical pain reliever for years, and it’s much less addictive and bad for you compared to a lot of the pills players are taking today. Medications like Vicodin and Percocet, on the other hand, are highly addictive and players can easily become dependent on them. They can also cause major liver damage and increase a player’s risk of heart damage.

Besides the stigma of marijuana has been evaporating over the years, and the days of it being illegal in this country is coming to an end. It’s already legal in eight states and Washington D.C. for recreational use. There are seven NFL teams in those areas where marijuana is legal yet banned by the NFL. Now the NFL is a private business and they can ban any substance they want, but to ban a substance that has minor side effects and is, at worse, mildly addictive seems petty. Especially when some report that 50 percent of the league is already using it.

Marijuana is unlikely to be an issue after the next CBA is negotiated. Even if it’s not removed entirely, the wording will be such that you would have to have a serious issue with it to be in trouble from the league. Until that day when the NFL’s ethical arm catches up with pop culture and modern medicine, players like Harris will need to continue to be very careful with their use.