Americans are gearing up for one of the biggest Sunday events of the year: Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5, 2017, where the New England Patriots will take on the Atlanta Falcons at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
While the two teams are known for their football skills, we’re more interested in their history with marijuana. Whether it be players caught with it, coaches talking about it or cannabis companies supporting the sport, here’s a primer on the NFL’s drug testing policy and a rundown of everything marijuana-related for this year’s Super Bowl teams.
Pot Policy Primer
This past year was huge for marijuana advocates with the drug now legal in 28 states, but legalization hasn’t yet swayed the NFL to change its policy that bans the drug. Under the NFL’s current policy, players who test positive for 35 ng/mL of THC and above are deemed in violation of the policy, which can result in disciplinary actions that range from fines to suspensions.
New England Patriots
The league’s policy didn’t stop some players from getting high, though. This past November, Alan Branch, a defensive tackle for the Patriots, was looking at a four-game suspension after a positive marijuana test. Branch quickly appealed the proposed suspension and won his appeal less than two weeks later.
Besides Branch, running back LeGarrette Blount is the only other player on the Patriots known to have gotten in trouble for marijuana in recent years, after he was arrested and suspended for possession while still playing for the Steelers in 2013. Blount’s suspension caused him to miss the Patriots’ first game of the 2015 season.
The Falcons have a slightly better track record in regards to marijuana policy violations, with the team’s most recent player violation happening back in 2013. The now-retired Jason Snelling faced misdemeanor charges for possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia, earning him a one-game suspension. Besides Snelling, the second most recent violation came from defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux after he was charged with felony possession of marijuana back in 2009.
Coaches Keeping Quiet
Head coaches for the Patriots and the Falcons, Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn, respectively, have kept a low profile regarding their thoughts on marijuana. Quinn has never been known to talk about marijuana on the record, but Belichick has said a few words on the drug in private. Ironically, just months before his own arrest, LeGarrette Blount admitted to NESN that the head coach advised players not to partake while visiting Colorado for a game against the Broncos.
On Feb. 1, Daniel Macris, founder of Atlanta-based Halycon Organics CBD, voiced his company’s support for the Falcons while attending the Cannabis in Professional Sports event in Houston. “What a great way to show support to our home team while advocating for cannabis at the Super Bowl,” Macris said in a statement.
Back in Massachusetts, Ermont, a Quincy-based dispensary, is helping fans prepare for the Super Bowl with infused queso and hot sauce.
Ermont is closing early for the big game, but announced on its website that it’s making up for it with an offer of “Get $25 off a purchase of $50 or more for each of your first two visits.”
Legal marijuana dispensaries across the country are expected to see increased sales in advance of this year’s Super Bowl, as a growing number of football fans are hosting cannabis-friendly tailgate parties.