View attachment 36950 Broncos and Seahawks fans will be free to pass joints around their hometown Super Bowl parties stuffed with weed named for Peyton Manning and Marshawn Lynch. But if the Denver quarterback or Seattle running back were to light up the same stuff when they got home, they’d be in trouble — not with the law, but with the league.
The NFL still treats marijuana as a banned substance on the level of cocaine or heroin, and players who test positive for it can face severe penalties. A marijuana advocacy group says that’s hypocritical, and it has brought its message to the current epicenter of the football world: New Jersey.
The Marijuana Policy Project set up five billboards in the Garden State just ahead of the Super Bowl decrying what they see as an unfair double-standard for players, who they say could use the drug’s medicinal benefits to supplement or replace prescription painkillers.
Though recreational marijuana use was legalized in Washington and Colorado — the home states of the two teams vying for this year’s championship — the NFL still tests for marijuana. Under NFL rules, the first positive test results in intervention, and the second brings about a four-game suspension.
The billboards are located on I-78 near the New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza in Newark; on I-495 leading to the Lincoln Tunnel in North Bergen; and on I-80 east off the Turnpike in Teaneck. Two more are located on the Garden State Parkway near the Raritan toll plaza, north of Sayreville.
None of the billboards will be anywhere near the game, though. The Star-Ledger reported in September that advertisements in the vicinity of MetLife Stadium will be reserved strictly for the game’s official sponsors, in an effort to subvert attempts at guerilla ad campaigns.
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Two of the billboards feature faceless football players in Seahawks and Broncos colors, along with the slogan, “Marijuana is less harmful to our bodies than alcohol. Why does the league punish us for making the safer choice?”
“Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive, and less harmful to the body than alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the group, in a press release. “If it is okay for athletes to douse each other with champagne in front of the cameras, it should be okay for them to use marijuana privately in their homes.”
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Another two billboards claim that football itself is more dangerous than marijuana use, though studies proving that are harder to come by than ones contrasting pot with alcohol. In recent years, research has shown that football-related head trauma often leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease common in former players.
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The final billboard speaks less about players than the general public, but its message is perhaps the most eye-catching: In 2012, it claims, there were 749,000 marijuana arrests. That’s about the same number as the crowds of the last ten Super Bowls combined.
The MPP plans to meet outside the NFL headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday to present the league with a petition, signed by 12,000 people, asking to change the marijuana policy.
“Most Americans think marijuana should be legal,” said Tvert, referencing a Gallup poll from last year, “and laws around the country are beginning to reflect that. The NFL needs to catch up with the times.”
By Tom Wright-Piersanti
January 28, 2014 at 12:56 PM, updated January 28, 2014 at 2:01 PM