From the Sidelines

McMullen: California marijuana legalization has little effect on NFL

04.10.2015. Wembley Stadium. London, England. NFL International Series. Miami Dolphins versus New York Jets. The NFL logo on display in front of the Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Roland Harrison/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****
(Roland Harrison/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire)

Misdirection is often a big part of the NFL, specifically on the offensive side of the football, but there is a different kind of misdirection floating around a league in which a lot of the employees like to smoke marijuana.

Three more states — California, Massachusetts and Nevada — voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Election Day and that makes five of our 50 states, who have tapped out to what seems like an inevitability (Washington and Colorado had already made the move).

Already, many weed advocates around the NFL have pointed out that seven different NFL teams now play in jurisdictions where the stuff is legal, as all the California teams (San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco), as well as New England joined the Seahawks and the Broncos.

Add in the ones that now approve of the use of medicinal marijuana and you can add all the team’s in the Sunshine State — Miami, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville — to an ever-expanding list.

What those same people don’t tell you is that all 50 states could have legalized the stuff yesterday and that has no impact on the jointly-bargained CBA that bans NFL players from using the stuff.

So, despite pot being legal in Seattle and Denver for quite a while now, players on the Seahawks and Broncos are still not technically allowed to use it as far as their employers are concerned.

And that will also hold true with the five new teams who now play in jurisdictions that no longer have a problem with the stuff from a legal standpoint.

As we have pointed out ad nauseam in the past, the league’s testing procedures regarding marijuana are very lax and players who are not caught up in later stages of the substance-abuse policy are only screened once a year for the stuff in what amounts to a glorified IQ test.

That’s important to what’s going on here because the majority of players who use in the NFL have no issues navigating through the testing and therefore have no desire to threaten a work stoppage for the players who have been unable to steer through the same policy.

For that reason the weed lobby has adopted the strategy of pointing toward legalization as some impetus to foster change in the SA policy without collectively bargaining it.

And that’s specious when talking about a private business.

Alcohol, for instance, has been OK for many years in a legal sense yet no legitimate operation wants their employees on the clock while drunk. So guess what, you can’t take a belt or two in most workplaces and if you do, you’re going to get shown the door.

Smoking tobacco is also legal but doing so in public places — like your desk at work — has been banned just about everywhere and no one bats an eye as they walk outside to light up.

Before you point out that you can’t do that with weed, understand the point is a larger one in that businesses have a wide berth in these types of issues. While Player A might not get in any legal trouble in certain cities for possessing that stuff, that doesn’t mean their employers can’t ban it during working hours (and test for it to make sure that ban is being adhered to).

In fact, it’s still very legal for employers to test their employees for marijuana use in the states that have OK’d its recreational use.

At some point, the NFL may change its stance on marijuana as our society grows more and more accepting of it because in a cost-benefit analysis in which you lose an important player for say four games, the league may ultimately decide it isn’t worth playing hardliner for this particular behavior.

But advancing the case that players on certain teams should be able to smoke today because marijuana is legal in their cities is an argument pushed by two kinds of people, the disingenuous and the obtuse.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

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