Is marijuana safer than football... and alcohol?

Is marijuana safer than football... and alcohol?

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The upcoming Super Bowl has jokingly been called "The Stoner Bowl"-- with both teams hailing from the two states have legalized marijuana. But, even though their states allow pot, the NFL does not. Now, there's a big push to change that.

Billboards have been put up around the Super Bowl stadium, featuring photos of football players with color schemes representing the Broncos and the Seahawks-- saying, "Marijuana is less harmful than football" and, "Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol."

"It was very disappointing to see that, knowing that a lot of kids look up to these athletes. We would like to see more of them spreading a positive message about making healthy choices," says Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. He's not ok with the new ads encouraging the NFL to change its drug policy. "We know through research and science that many of the chemicals in marijuana are harmful, (and) have been known to cause cancer- testicular cancer, depression, anxiety," says Woodward.

"The legislators are way behind the people on this. America knows," says Norma Sapp, the Oklahoma Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). A recent Gallup poll shows, for the first time ever, 58-percent of Americans want to legalize marijuana. Sapp is one of them. "That's where our medicines originally came from, was plants," says Sapp. She says football players receive injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives. "There's a chance that you could have a head injury. (You can) definitely break a leg or something, and you cannot injure yourself on marijuana," she says. She also says marijuana is safer than alcohol.

"Taking a big hit of marijuana poses less potential harm than taking a big hit from an NFL linebacker or a big shot of tequila," says Mason Tvert, with the Marijuana Policy Project, the group who sponsored the billboards. "Whether it's a concussion or a hangover, it's a sign that you've done more harm to your brain than marijuana could ever do."

"For them to say it's safer is simply not the case. Everyone reacts differently. Some people absolutely have harmful reactions. Both (alcohol and marijuana) have known and proven scientific adverse health effects on the body," says Woodward. "They don't smoke marijuana and then immediately die anymore than somebody smokes one cigarette and immediately dies. Not everybody that drinks alcohol becomes an alcoholic or gets liver disease. It's the path that it puts them on that leads to destructive consequences. You can't paint a blanket statement with a broad brush that says certain drugs are safe and certain drugs aren't. We ask these meth, or cocaine, or heroin users-- 'What was the first step on this path to where you're at?' And, frequently they say the same thing-- Smoking weed with their friends as a teenager," says Woodward.

But, Sapp disagrees. "They wouldn't think: I had a beer at 12 years old, or I had a cigarette at 14. They wouldn't think of that as a drug," she says, making a point that alcohol or cigarettes could have been the gateway.

"I think people need ask themselves" Is having more people legally getting high and stoned on marijuana the best thing for the state of Oklahoma?" says Woodward.

"People that want it are doing it now. It's dangerous because it's unregulated," says Sapp. "If you have no personal experience with it, you cannot speak to it," she says.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the group that sponsored the billboards, has started a petition to change the NFL drug policy. As of 7 p.m. Thursday evening, they had over 12,600 signatures. If you would like to sign the petition, click here.

Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks Cornerback, was recently asked if he thinks the NFL and pro leagues should remove marijuana as one of the drugs they test for, and they sanction if they test positive. "It's not one of the things I've thought about. I don't know, I think it's fine. It's worked so far. It's been fine with everybody. Everybody, you know, as done fine and abided by the rules for the most part... and... I haven't seen players adamantly come out and say, 'I'm tired of this rule,' or 'I'm tired of this.' I'm sure, as they said, they'd look into it and, you know, make a decision on it, but I think it's fine so far," Sherman responded.

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