The NFL draft had a number of interesting storylines, but none more shocking and impactful than the Laremy Tunsil situation. Ten minutes before the draft, a video and subsequent screen shots of Tunsil emerged on social media. In it, he was seen smoking marijuana through a gas mask attached to a bong. Tunsil was predicted to be a top six pick but slipped all the way to the 13th spot, where the Dolphins selected him. The Ravens and Titans both passed on Tunsil, selecting offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin, respectively. The Ravens admitted to passing on Tunsil because of the video, fearing there would be more problems connected with him. Tunsil’s actions helped to re-illuminate a problem running rampant through the league recently and causing problems for many players: marijuana and synthetic marijuana use.
The recreational use of marijuana is not new to the NFL or other professional sports leagues. Players are frequently caught with it in their systems during random drug tests or on their persons when dealing with law enforcement officers. Former Patriots cornerback Chandler Jones was caught with synthetic marijuana in January. He had a bad reaction to it and walked to a nearby police station looking for help. He was then transported to a nearby hospital where he was treated.
Jones is not the first person to get into trouble after using synthetic marijuana. 30th overall pick Robert Nkemdiche made headlines when he fell out of a window after using synthetic marijuana. He was transported to the hospital and charged with possession after police discovered seven rolled marijuana cigarettes in his hotel room. One of the people in the room with Nkemdiche that night was his Ole Miss teammate Laremy Tunsil.
Athletes use synthetic marijuana because it does not show up on drug tests, but the side effects, including paranoia and hallucinations, are much more severe. If the NFL does not figure out a way to test players for this drug, it could be catastrophic.
Perhaps the most notable person that has been caught with marijuana in his system is Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon was suspended for marijuana use for 10 games during the 2014 season and missed the entire 2015 season because he failed to follow the league’s substance abuse program. In March of 2016, Gordon failed another drug test and still waits to see whether he will be reinstated back into the NFL.
One of the main arguments for the legalization of marijuana is that it is not as harmful as other drugs, and there has been a recent push to legalize it throughout the United States. As of now, the drug is still illegal in most places and completely outlawed throughout the NFL. Regardless of whether a player believes it should be legal or not, they are still forbidden from using it. Marijuana has now affected Gordon’s career and Tunsil’s draft stock, while synthetic marijuana nearly caused physical harm to Nkemdiche. On the third day of the draft, Chandler Jones was traded from the Patriots to the Cardinals. It’s clear that there are no positives from using marijuana, besides a positive drug test. Hopefully, the NFL will soon find a way to monitor synthetic marijuana. Until then players should take the advice of Stephen A. Smith and “STAY OFF THE WEED!”