America’s National Football League continues to make cannabis-related headlines. Specifically, the NFL has been very opposed to considering cannabis as medicine even though the plant has been shown to help traumatic head injuries and chronic pain from impacts. Eugene Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens has donated tens of thousands of dollars to cannabis research.
Additionally, the NFL’s commissioner Roger Goodell has imposed season-long suspensions over cannabis use, while physical assaults against fiancees and children have drawn suspensions for only a handful of games. Clearly, the NFL needs to reexamine their stance on medical cannabis.
But synthetic marijuana is definitely not cannabis, and the NFL is right to add synthetic marijuana to their list of banned substances. It is unfortunate that the NFL groups synthetic cannabinoids and phyto-cannabinoids from actual plants under the same policy, but the effects of synthetic marijuana can be very damaging, as Americans have witnessed over the past years.
Typically, synthetic marijuana is created in unregulated laboratories in overseas countries like China. The process does not involve any material from cannabis plants, but rather synthetically-derived chemicals that are designed to mimic the endocannabinoid system’s reaction to compounds like THC and CBD. The results rarely come close to the real thing.
The unregulated creation of a compound by mixing un-measured chemicals is unethical and has resulted in hundreds of hospital visits over the last few years. The street names for synthetic marijuana continue to evolve, but the two most famous are “Spice” and “K2.” Both of these brand names have been appearing in tobacco and head shops across the United States. Authorities are trying to clamp down on the problem, but the chemical formulas change faster than police can manage.
There have been a few very negative incidents involving football players and synthetic marijuana. The 2010 national NCAA football champions, the Auburn Tigers, saw an epidemic of synthetic marijuana use. Even after several players failed drug tests for synthetic cannabinoids, the school kept the results confidential and made no public effort to punish the offenders. Three players from the 2010 championship football team were involved in a midnight armed robbery that earned all three prison time. The players blamed their actions on their rampant use of synthetic marijuana.
In late 2015, Robert Nkemdiche, a college football player from Ole Miss, fell from a 15 foot ledge after consuming synthetic marijuana at a hotel in Atlanta. A month later, Chandler Jones of the New England Patriots wandered into a police station seeking assistance without a shirt. He was hospitalized, but able to play in the game the following Sunday. The NFL did not have a synthetic marijuana testing policy at the time.
These are only a couple of the most prevalent synthetic marijuana cases involving football players. The NFL is certainly justified in their revision of the 2016 drug policy to include synthetic marijuana, but many cannabis advocates feel like this only worsens the case for medical cannabis, which could solve a lot of the longterm health issues imposed on professional football players.
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