Marolt: When pot talks, money walks

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

For parents who want to smoke pot, but don’t want their kids to, I find it disingenuous to claim marijuana is harmful only for a developing adolescent brain. I believe this is a similar argument made by adults who told kids in the 1960s that smoking regular cigarettes wasn’t harmful to them, but it would stunt our growth if we tried it. It’s made worse by then jumping directly to the comparison with alcohol and claiming that pot (or regular cigarettes) isn’t any worse than booze.

Smoking anything is obviously bad for you. I don’t care if you are lighting up locally grown organic kale; if you inhale while it’s on fire, it is not healthy. When you say that smoking weed isn’t any more dangerous than guzzling alcohol, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Altering the function of the central nervous system begs caution.

The truth is that the weed and wine debate can’t currently be won in the lab. The science isn’t yet on either side of the fence you’re looking at the grass from, so nobody can yet prove to anybody the wisdom of making THC-laced gummy bears as readily available as Budweiser at the local grocery store.

But, where science drags its feet working through the quagmire of hypothesizing, testing and proving, the math of economics has recently made its case.

The proof of pot’s deleterious effect on a sports career unfolded in dramatic fashion last week. The test tube was Miami. The test groups were the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball MLB). The independent variables were pot and anabolic steroids. The independent variable was cold, hard cash.

The NFL and MLB are multibillion-dollar industries hoping to soon be trillion-dollar industries. They will stop at nothing to get there. Their mottos might as well be, “If we ain’t cheetin’, we ain’t trying”, and “we’ve never met a moral dilemma we couldn’t bury.” They groom a wide berth for behavioral transgressions.

They care less about the moral implications of legalized marijuana than the moral implications of beating one’s wife. Players have literally gotten away with murder. As long as you can perform at the highest level and are not physically in jail on game day, you will probably find yourself in the starting lineup.

In this context, how bad is smoking pot? If you ask Laremy Tunsil, this year’s first round pick of the Miami Dolphins and the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft, you might learn that it isn’t any big deal. That is, if you are high and don’t consider the loss of $10 million to be a big deal.

Tunsil lost the equivalent of a Red Mountain mansion or a medium-sized private jet because the day before the draft, a video surfaced of him inhaling pot smoke from a gas mask. He said that somebody hacked his Instagram account to post the video, but nobody cared about that. What mattered was in the picture.

Meanwhile, across town, Dee Gordon of the Miami Marlins, last year’s National League batting champion, was accepting punishment for his positive test indicating he had synthetic steroids in his blood. It’s an 80-game suspension, which could cost him millions, too.

There’s a difference, though. Gordon’s team is standing behind him. Nobody believes he can no longer perform at the expected level. His monetary loss amounts to a fine while Tunsil’s is a vote of no-confidence.

What the public thinks of Tunsil smoking pot has little to do with the first 12 teams in the NFL draft passing him up, even though he was slated to be a top-three pick before his pot smoking was revealed. It was all about what those teams believed how he might perform in the future based on something they didn’t know about him before. Sure, the Dolphins who ended up with him stood behind him, but mostly because they got damaged goods at a $10-million discount.

This isn’t to say that a pot-head athlete can’t perform at the highest level. Certainly some do. What it does say is that the people putting together championship teams think that most can’t and they won’t bet millions believing they can sift out the exceptions.

You might say that professional sports are behind the times. I don’t think so. They see the effects of pot on athletes more than we do. There is too much on the line for them to make decisions based on outdated prejudices. Sports rely heavily on science when they evaluate their talent. They also have stat books. To those who make big-time professional sports the fabric of culture, money talks and the scoreboard never lies.

Roger Marolt remembers when Ricky Williams found it easier to give up an NFL career than marijuana.


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