420: We Need to Apologize to the Athletes Scrutinized for Cannabis in the Past

As we embark on another 4/20 holiday, it’s only fair that we remember the athletes who were ahead of their time and paid the price for it.

Marijuana has been considered taboo for decades. Considered a gateway drug and frowned upon by the law, weed has become more mainstream, even becoming more excepted by state governments. Even some of the most conservative states have warmed up to legalizing medical marijuana.

The sports industry has criminalized marijuana as well, and in some cases, more so than society has. Athletes have gotten suspended, kicked out of their respective leagues, or barred from competition due to violations of substance-abuse policies.

Well, here we are in 2022 and the 51-year-old cannabis holiday 4/20 is normalized and commercialized, and it seems like more people are actively embracing it and participating in some shape, form, or fashion. Seeing how much the perspective has changed, it’s time to apologize to the athletes penalized for partaking before it was “popular” or “accepted.” Especially those that were using it for health benefits.

Below is a list of some of the most notable athletes who got in trouble for cannabis over the last few decades.

Randy Moss:

Moss, a legendary wide receiver, was also a legendary weed smoker and unapologetic about it. Right in the middle of his career, in 2005, Moss spoke openly about his marijuana use.

Moss spoke openly about his love for marijuana on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

“I have used, you know, marijuana since I’ve been in the league, said Moss. “But as far as abusing it and, you know, letting it take control over me, I don’t do that.”

Allen Iverson:

The Hall-of-Fame combo-guard was also one of the most controversial NBA stars to play the game. One of his most controversial instances was his 1997 suspension for marijuana possession.

Ricky Williams:

Williams had one of the weirdest NFL careers of all time. He was a legendary running back at the University of Texas and kept on that legendary path in his first few seasons in the NFL.

After that, he seemed to disappear with no explanation.

Something we’ve all deduced as his reason for leaving the NFL was his cannabis use, which got a ton of coverage, almost as much coverage, as his on-the-field production. When Williams left the NFL in 2004, he was already three failed drug tests into his career and was facing a one-year suspension.

JR Smith:

Smith was suspended in 2013 after testing positive for marijuana, but due to a league (reporters and fans) already knowing about him smoking, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

Smith has always been a wild one, but that’s what everyone loved about him, including his sharp 3-point shooting career and high-flying dunks earlier in his career.

He also recently snitched or disclosed that NBA players were smoking during the 2020 NBA bubble season when they weren’t drug testing for marijuana.

Chris Webber:

Webber had such a storied basketball career. From Michigan’s Fab Five basketball team in college to being a force in the NBA, Webber was well-known.

He was also well-known for his devotion to marijuana. In 1998, Webber got stopped by Maryland police during a traffic stop, and they found cannabis in his car. He was arrested for driving under the influence, among other things.

Then, while returning from a trip to Puerto Rico, Webber was found with weed on him again.

As you’ve read, marijuana has been a part of athletics for a while now. The only difference now is herb’s perception by the government, corporations, and these professional sports leagues.

A few other players that were documented weed-connoisseurs were Stephen Jackson, Von Miller, and Michael Phelps, among many more that weren’t listed.

This time has been coming for a long time. The health benefits are robust, and the effect of other legal drugs versus marijuana is staggering.

About the author

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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