The NFL’s stance on marijuana in a word: archaic.
Recreational marijuana use is now legal in eight states and twenty-eight states have approved medical marijuana programs. And despite the legitimacy the legalization effort has been steadily gaining in recent years, the NFL still maintains that stems and seeds are a threat to the shield.
What makes the NFL’s stance on marijuana all the more troubling is just how popularity it is with players in their league. One former player estimated that the number of NFL players who currently smoke pot is over 50 percent and could even be as high as 75 percent. A sports agent who asked to remain anonymous said that the number could be as high as 80 percent. Meanwhile, sports agent Brian Fettner told the New York Post in September 2016 that whenever players are sidelined for unspecified substance-abuse violations, it is almost always marijuana
Former and current NFL players have been calling for the league to lift its ban on marijuana. Plus, a disproportionate number of former players have dedicated their lives to pot-activism, as they have reaped the anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant benefits of marijuana use firsthand.
While there are almost too many stoner NFLers to choose from, here are 15 of our favourite players who went green before game time.
15 Von Miller
Super Bowl 50’s MVP has a history of going green. In July 2013, Miller was suspended six games for violating league policy, the second time in his career. “I don’t have a substance-abuse problem,” he said. “I feel like I’ve definitely made some mistakes in the past. I can’t shy away from that. But I’m working hard to fix it. I’m working hard to gain everybody’s trust back. All I can ask is people judge me from my actions going forward. I’m working hard to gain trust back. I’m very confident I’ll be able to do that.” The NFL increased Miller’s original four-game suspension to six games because it thought he tried to cheat the system by working with a specimen collector who accepted a fraudulent sample.
As if his positive drug tests weren’t enough to earn him contention as one of the top NFL stoners, his eccentric personality certainly implies a soft-spot for the green stuff. During an interview with The Ringer, Miller put forward the stoner theory, “In the next 5,000 years there won’t be any more freckles or red hair. That’s the way humans are evolving. We will all eventually be bald, too. We lose hair because it helps us cool our brains faster. The smarter we get, the less hair we need, because our brains need to be cool. Also, we will lose another toe. We will have four toes.”
14 Seantrel Henderson
Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson was suspended 10 games last season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Henderson, who had found out that he had Crohn’s disease in the middle of the 2015-2016 season, said he’d only smoked weed as treatment for his condition.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease, where inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. A study published in August 2011 in the Israel Medical Association Journal presented the results of the first research to ever examine the use of cannabis in people with Crohn's. The 30 patients, who hadn't previously responded to standard treatments, all said their overall well-being improved with marijuana use.
Of course, despite THC easing the pain Henderson felt in his bowels, the NFL had no sympathy for the Bill, which is really too bad because Crohn’s disease sounds just as bad as getting run into by 300-pound giants every week.
13 Jake Plummer
The former Broncos and Cardinals quarterback who retired in 2007 has become a vocal marijuana advocate throughout his post-playing career. "I had pain. That's why I left the game after 10 years," he told Bleacher Report in a feature published in September 2016. "It was just the beatdown. Having to take anti-inflammatories all year to get through the season. I didn't like the way my body was feeling.”
Plummer prefers to not go into specifics about whether he used marijuana during his playing days, but has admitted that when nursing his shoulder, lower back and hips, he started to have “deep thoughts,” which are essentially negative examinations of his existence such as, “Why the hell did I even start playing football in the first place?” That’s when he started using a special cannabis oil called Charlotte’s Web as an anti-inflammatory, which also helped him cope with the “deep thoughts” that haunted him when he was laid-up in bed unable to walk.
12 Cam Newton
Back in February 2016, Cam Newton was spotted in a Nashville nightclub puffing on something that looked too thick to be a cigarette and held in the lungs a little too long to be a cigar. Of course, the video of Newton smoking in the club was circulated by Newton’s haters but Newton was never penalized. But is anyone surprised that the man who made the “dab” famous might smoke weed from time to time?
Now, dabbing—the dance move—and dabs—the smoking of cannabis concentrate—are not one and the same thing. Bow Wow attempted to explain the origin of the dab dance on Twitter, saying it was derived from the cannabis dabbers community, which was refuted by Atlanta rappers who know that the dance comes from local legend Skippa da Flippa. Still, the homonyms will forever be speculated upon, just like whether or not Cam Newton’s pregame routine includes some warm-up dabs…
11 Eben Britton
Long before Eben Britton started contributing essays to Leafy, the largest cannabis website in the world, the former offensive tackle played at least three NFL games while stoned.
Britton told the New York Post, “NFL games I played stoned were some of the best games I ever played. Cannabis cements your surroundings. A lot of people say they’re useless when they smoke weed. But hell, I played NFL games [while stoned], dude. My performances were solid and I felt really good after.” Despite the improved performance, Britton was suspended by the NFL in the 2015 offseason and has been out of the league since.
Britton’s preferred method of pain management over the course of his football career was marijuana, citing the health risks associated with pharmaceutical painkillers as a reason why players should not be punished for choosing a natural alternative. Britton is now a member of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group that advocates for the NFL to change its policy on marijuana.
10 Mark Stepnoski
Five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion Mark Stepnoski has made his post-football career out of his love for the green stuff. As a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (or NORML for short), Mark Stepnoski has advocated for the legalization of marijuana since 2001. In addition to his role on NORML's advisory board, Mark also served as President of Texas NORML.
Sadly, Stepnoski’s Catholic high school rescinded their nomination to elect him to their Hall of Fame because of his involvement in pro-pot activism. He has since relocated to Vancouver, North America’s pot capital. And if his commitment to advocating the legalization of weed wasn’t enough to convince you he goes green, the center is a self-professed 9/11 truther, which is as good as a NORML membership in terms of proving someone is a pot head. Much to the chagrin of the NFL, Mark Stepnoski admitted to smoking during his career.
9 Santonio Holmes
Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes has been haunted by a checkered past. Back in his hometown of BelleGlade, Florida, Holmes has admitted on several occasions to dealing drugs as a teenager, which no doubt helped normalize marijuana and led him to start using it regularly.
Holmes was busted for marijuana possession on October 23, 2008. This came to no surprise to anyone who had paid attention to Holmes, who had always been open about his blazing ways. Pittsburgh police pulled over Mr. Holmes' sport utility vehicle near Mellon Arena and found three “marijuana-filled cigars.” Holmes told the officers that he had smoked marijuana in the vehicle the day before. But c’mon, do you really roll around with three blunts unless you’re thinking about blazing them up?
In March 2010, Holmes alluded to smoking marijuana on Twitter with a tweet that read it was “time to wake n bake.” A few weeks later, the NFL announced that Holmes was being suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Shouldn’t catching a Super Bowl-winning pass allow you to smoke a bit of weed now and then?
8 Tyrann Mathieu
Before the 2013 NFL Draft, there were a number of reports floating around that the LSU star and Heisman hopeful had failed approximately 10 drug test in college and spent a season on the sidelines because of it. He was allegedly struggling to survive without marijuana, which scared away a ton of NFL teams.
Fox Sports ran a segment on Tyrann Mathieu in 2015 that featured him admitting to the fact that he started smoking weed when he was only 12-years-old. As an NFL athlete, Mathieu has been able to stay out of trouble, stating that his off-the-field issues with marijuana are behind him thanks to the Cardinals’ support. “All the things I put before football in the past, it’s not fun anymore — marijuana and everything you put before football is obsolete now,” Mathieu said. For the good of his career, we hope Mathieu’s dependence on marijuana is behind him.
7 Josh Gordon
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 season for two violations: he received eight games for testing positive for marijuana and two games (reduced from four) for a DWI. In the DWI case, Gordon says, his blood-alcohol content was 0.01 over the legal limit. As for the marijuana test, Gordon maintained he had not smoked marijuana since before he was drafted in 2012 and tested positive because he inhaled second-hand smoke, which is the same excuse Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati used when he tested positive for marijuana in Nagano. Worse, his problems have only continued since then.
Gordon was suspended last spring for testing positive for Marijuana and checked himself into rehab after a Scout.com report alleged he was caught smuggling a pound of weed onto a flight from L.A. to Cleveland. Though that report has since been pulled, Gordon’s name is quickly becoming synonymous with substance abuse.
6 Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott took the league by storm this season, becoming an instant star for the Dallas Cowboys, but he may have had some help from his old friend Mary Jane in order to do so. Right before rushing for 48 yards on seven carries in a preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawk, Elliott stopped at a local Seattle marijuana dispensary. He didn’t buy anything, but he was caught on video and Jerry Jones was forced to address it. He told ESPN:
“Well, I think that in and of itself the reason we are talking about is in a way part of the learning process,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks Thursday. “But it’s not good. It’s just not good. It’s just not good.”
Seattle dispensaries very often double as tourist attractions and there is no proof Elliott took anything home with him. Still, his bad behavior this offseason, notably pulling down a woman’s top at a recent parade, suggests he’s got no inhibitions about smoking up before a game.
5 Michael Vick
Michael Vick’s name may always be synonymous with funding and operating barbaric dog fights out of his home in Virginia, but he also has a history of blazing and it’s not just because his eyes seem perpetually low.
In 2007, Michael Vick allegedly tried to sneak a bag of weed through airport security. He had hid his weed in a secret compartment in a water. No weed was found in the bottle and Vick wasn’t charged but the smell was enough to make him miss his flight. Learning nothing from the experience, Vick tested positive for THC nine moths later, all while under investigation for dog fighting…Yikes.
For someone to carry a water bottle that reeks of weed through airport security, I think it’s safe to assume they would have no inhibitions of bringing that very water bottle into a locker room or onto the field. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your weed on you everywhere you go.
4 Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp should have been drafted in the top five of the 1995 NFL Draft, however, he fell into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 12th. Why such a stark drop in draft stock? Because Sapp had been sampling the ganja. He allegedly tested positive for cocaine and marijuana at the 1995 NFL combine…only he didn’t? The NFL maintains that there was no cocaine in his results and they would not comment on the marijuana results.
When Sports Illustrated pressed Sapp on his alleged marijuana use, he said, “That’s not me.” Only, it was you, Mr. Sapp. Two years after the combine controversy, police found 12.7 grams of marijuana in his car. His defense? Sapp claimed it was his friend’s, which a judge believed. Claiming that the weed on your person or property belongs to an anonymous friend is the oldest trick in the book. Maybe Warren Sapp genuinely forgot that the weed belonged to him. Stoners do have unreliable memories after all.
3 Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin is best remembered as a member of the “triplets” who won three Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys. He is also, unfortunately, known for his run ins with the law. In 1996, he was arrested for possession of cocaine. He was suspended for the first five games of the 1996 season. Since retiring from the NFL in 1999, Irvin has been arrested three times, each time for either possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia.
A month after Super Bowl XXX, Irvin and former teammate Alfredo Roberts were found by police with two strippers, 10.3 grams of cocaine and more than an ounce of marijuana. Irvin greeted the on-scene officers with “Do you know who I am?” and pleaded no contest to a felony drug charge. If you’re rolling around with an ounce of weed, you are most certainly smoking it all the time, including before game time. Irvin has supposedly been clean for nearly a decade.
2 Randy Moss
21 teams passed on Randy Moss in the 1998 NFL Draft because of his alleged marijuana use. The Vikings, however, were the only team undeterred by his habits and so enamoured with his talent that they picked Moss and he would reward them with by winning Rookie of the Year.
Although he may have been an electric wide receiver, Moss never failed to find a way to frustrate fans with his inconsistency. He could make plays but he could skip plays just as well. The person Moss must have frustrated the most was his agent, especially when Moss appeared on an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO where he admitted to using marijuana as an NFLer. “I have used, you know, marijuana…since I’ve been in the league. But as far as abusing it and, you know, letting it take control over me, I don’t do that, no.”
He specified later in the interview that he predominantly smoked marijuana in the offseason, which was met by audible eye rolls from football fans.
1 Ricky Williams
The “Texas Tornado” won virtually every possible collegiate award for a running back. At the pro level, Williams was a Pro Bowler, a Pro Bowl MVP, a one-time All-Pro selection and had two 1000-yard seasons before he started his first stint with the Miami Dolphins. Though brilliant on the field, Williams had demons away from it. A noted introvert by many of his teammates, Williams was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety disorder. Many people believe Williams turned to marijuana to ease the strain of living with mental illness.
Between 2003 and 2004, Ricky tested positive for marijuana three separate times. He eventually announced his retirement from the NFL because he was continually being punished for using a banned substance. In short, Williams retired from the NFL so that he could smoke weed. To turn your back on an NFL career in order to enjoy marijuana is practically a guarantee he didn’t give a crap about smoking before games.
Last spring, the former running back announced he will be opening the world's first cannabis gym in San Francisco, fittingly titled Power Plant Fitness. The aim of the gym is to incorporate full mind training along with body training. The gym is supposed to open later this year.