The subject of professional athletes who compete in North American leagues using marijuana is going to be fascinating to follow over the next several years. The legalization of the drug in different parts of the continent has led to discussions on whether or not those running leagues need to rethink marijuana policies and how players who use that substance are punished if at all. There are, in fact, some smart business minds out there who would tell you that marijuana will no longer be banned by organizations such as the National Basketball Association and the National Football League within ten years of the posting of this piece.
Marijuana possession and use is not legal in all 50 US States as of July 2015, and those offenses are also no-nos for those who perform underneath the umbrellas of multiple leagues. This has thus led to a variety of athletes getting fined and, in some cases, even suspended because of they have chosen to take the risk and use marijuana at some point during their careers. It is possible that the drug could sink what could be a Hall-of-Fame NFL career if the individual is unable to understand that he has to make life changes as it pertains to what he can and cannot put into his body even during offseasons.
20 Ricky Williams
Unless you know next to nothing about the NFL career of Ricky Williams, you are probably well-aware of his history of using marijuana. Along with failing drug test after drug test after drug test, Williams has also spoken about the substance during interviews. There is an argument to be made that Williams could be the ideal example for why marijuana use should be legal for NFL players and for other pro athletes. That he was often not allowed to take the field all because of what is widely seen as a drug that does not improve performance robbed fans of seeing Williams play.
19 Matt Every
It has long been speculated that the public would be surprised by the amount of pro golfers who smoke marijuana. Matt Every was deemed to be one of those guys in 2010 when he was arrested on a charge of marijuana possession. Those charges were dropped, and Every was later quoted by the NY Times for saying the following on the matter: “Honestly, man, I know more people who smoke marijuana than who don’t smoke marijuana. I know that’s probably not the politically correct thing to say, but it’s the truth. It’s not a big deal to me. Like I don’t frown on people doing that stuff. I don’t do it, but I don’t frown upon it.”
18 Darren McCarty
The National Hockey League tests for substances such as marijuana more so to determine if a player needs help than to punish those who would use such drugs. Thus, it was not all that surprising when Darren McCarty explained in his book that he was busted for marijuana in drug tests “more than 30 times as a player.” McCarty, who can legally use marijuana because of possessing a medical card, has also referred to himself as a “functioning alcoholic.” Maybe the NHL did not do enough to make sure that McCarty was taking proper care of himself during his career.
17 Carmelo Anthony
Do you know why you may have forgotten that Carmelo Anthony was busted for marijuana possession during the early days of his NBA career? It is because the situation was not all that big of a deal. Anthony, 20 years old at the time, was supposedly just holding some of the substance for a friend, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Anthony was merely a victim of circumstance at that portion of his time with the Denver Nuggets. Who among us, after all, has not forgotten about some marijuana that they stashed away in the bag of an NBA player? Wait, nobody else? Oh.
16 Ross Rebagliati
There are some readers out there who will instantly become fans of Ross Rebagliati upon reading this portion of the piece. Rebagliati won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics before the snowboarder was busted for testing positive for marijuana. He was ultimately allowed to retain possession of the medal since marijuana was not banned at that time, and Rebagliati has since gone all-in on the medical marijuana field. While some would attempt to run away from the matter to save their reputations and their marketability, Rebagliati instead remained true to himself.
15 Chris Perez
Fans of the Cleveland Indians recall the name of Chris Perez for the saves that he blew during the latter portions of games. They will also remember the time that Perez was busted for marijuana when he allegedly thought it wise to have his shipment mailed to his dog. Perez instantly became a punchline among those who hosted sports talk radio shows in northeast Ohio, but the incident would not have been more than a laughing matter had Perez managed to have a successful career with the Indians after he was popped for that infamous shipment. Cleveland fans want their teams to win at all costs.
14 Marshawn Lynch
The enigmatic NFL running back who has become somewhat of an anti-hero since linking up with the Seattle Seahawks was arrested on a gun charge in 2009. Marijuana was found in the car at the time of the arrest, but nobody was charged since it was not determined who in that vehicle was holding the substance. There has been plenty of speculation over the years that Lynch has used marijuana, so much so that he has had strains named after him. Seattle coaches likely do not care what Lynch puts into his system so long as he remains off of suspension lists and can continue to feature for the Seahawks on Sundays.
13 Emanuel Newton
Emanuel Newton is the first of two mixed martial arts fighters who are showcased in this list. Bellator suspended the light-heavyweight in March of 2015 after he was busted for using marijuana during a pre-fight drug test. Newton could ultimately be proof that marijuana is not, in fact, a performance-enhancing drugs for MMA fighters. He lost his light-heavyweight championship to Liam McGeary at Bellator 134. Perhaps fight commissions should rethink their “zero tolerance” policies regarding the use of drugs. Marijuana did not help Newton all that much earlier this year.
12 Jordan Schafer
The outfielder who was playing for the Houston Astros in the fall of 2011 learned a valuable lesson on that fateful day: It is not wise to be smoking marijuana at the same time that you pull your vehicle up alongside a police car, and that decision is even more regrettable when you are carrying additional marijuana on you. Included in the stash had by Jordan Schafer was a small amount of marijuana inside of “three small marijuana peanut butter cups.” Live your life as you see fit, but consider using such substances inside of your home when you are grounded and not as likely to encounter roaming law enforcement officials.
11 Michael Vick
It is easy to forget that Michael Vick was once busted for marijuana during a random drug test. After all, Vick's involvement with a dogfighting operation is probably the legal matter that first comes to mind when you think of the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback. Vick followed a jail sentence by becoming one of the true great redemption stories in the history of the NFL, a player who was well-liked and well-respected by members of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets. Does Vick use marijuana to this day? We don't know.
10 Allen Iverson
There is an old adage that teaches that it is likely that a pro athlete who is busted for carrying anything marijuana related has probably used the substance more than once before in his life. Allen Iverson carrying marijuana back in the day was not as big a deal in the public eye as was the fact that he also happened to have a gun at the time. Iverson has found himself in serious trouble during his life, and his career slowly but surely faded away. He was nevertheless one of the most exciting NBA players of his generation, and his greatness has been under-appreciated by far too many.
9 Nick Diaz
You can head on over to your favorite Internet search engine, type in the entries “Nick Diaz” and “marijuana” and then find yourself rather busy with all of the links that appear. Whether or not mixed martial arts competitors who fight for organizations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship should be allowed to use marijuana has been a hotly-debated topic. Some would point out that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug, while others would say that use of the substance could give a fighter an emotional and psychological advantage right before entering a cage for a brawl.
8 Rob Van Dam
Marijuana played a role in what was set to be the biggest push in the history of Rob Van Dam's World Wrestling Entertainment career coming to an end not long after he won the WWE Championship at the 2006 “One Night Stand” show. Van Dam has not only been unapologetic about his marijuana use during his pro wrestling career. He has even written blogs for websites such as Cannabis Culture. The joke back in the day when RVD would ascend to the top rope for his Five-Star Frog Splash was that “nobody got higher than Rob Van Dam.”
7 Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon is the first of two NFL wide receivers mentioned in this piece who finds himself in limbo as it pertains to playing pro football in part because of marijuana. Along with being popped for possessing marijuana, Blackmon has also violated the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse on multiple occasions. Blackmon's status is unknown as of the posting of this piece, but it seems as if time playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars has come to an end. There has been some speculation that Blackmon may choose to simply call time on his NFL career soon before it ever truly got off the ground.
6 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Well before he was an actor who would become a politician and the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilder who admittedly enjoyed smoking marijuana. Videos and pictures of the man who would become “The Governator” using the drug have, over time, become Internet memes. It was during his political career when Schwarzenegger openly discussed the reality that opinions on marijuana use among Americans were evolving. Say what you will about Schwarzenegger. His using marijuana did not prevent him from having success during multiple careers.
5 Tim Lincecum
There was evidence all the way back in 2009 that the way society viewed pro athletes using marijuana was changing. It was then when San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum was busted for marijuana, a story that was met with apathy and even a little humor from local reporters. Those who suggested years later that Lincecum was experiencing career troubles because of marijuana were almost immediately shot down by members of the press. Slumps happen in sports, and there does not have to be a drug involved for a player to have struggles during his career.
4 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
One of the best pro basketball players in history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been outspoken about a variety of matters since he retired from the NBA. Abdul-Jabbar was busted for marijuana while in Toronto back in 1998, and he offered what seemed to be a reasonable explanation for why he was carrying the substance. According to the LA Times, Abdul-Jabbar was merely following a doctor's recommendation after the former player had complained about migraines. Anybody who has ever had to deal with suffering from migraines can understand why Abdul-Jabbar would want to do anything to ease that type of pain.
3 Michael Phelps
Perhaps those who would claim that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug are onto something with those hot takes. Michael Phelps is arguably the greatest swimmer in the history of the Summer Olympics, and he found himself on the cover of multiple publications back in 2009 due to what he called a “regrettable” incident. Unlike other athletes in this list, Phelps has not been crushed by members of the media and fans because of that infamous picture. There are probably some fans out there who have even forgotten about Phelps being linked with marijuana.
2 Sheldon Richardson
It seems as if the New York Jets cannot avoid some sort of negative press during any year these days, and that was the case in the early days of summer 2015 when it was learned that the talented New York Jets defensive lineman was busted by the NFL for using marijuana. Sheldon Richardson will miss four regular season games for his crime against the rules of pro football, a bit of news that has left some questioning if Richardson truly is dedicated to the cause of helping the Jets win a championship. Richardson may find himself having to win back the trust of teammates when the fall season arrives.
1 Josh Gordon
The Cleveland Browns wide receiver has proven himself to be one of the top offensive play-makers in all of the NFL when he has been able to remain eligible to take the field. Josh Gordon has also continued to be associated with marijuana ever since he first got in trouble while in college because of the drug. Gordon is currently suspended indefinitely by the NFL for an accumulation of infractions, and he is set to miss at least the entire 2015 season. It would be a shame if such a special talent was bounced out of the league before he entered his athletic prime because of marijuana use.