High School > Marijuana

Marijuana use in the athlete population is increasing at an alarming rate. Efforts to deter alcohol use (breathalyzer) which is much more detectable and being utilized by many school districts have shifted use toward pot. Be Aware and Beware!


Athletic Sector Wake up!!!

By John Underwood Director, American Athletic Institute

Marijuana’s renewed popularity is not limited to any single group of young people. It encompasses wealthy, middle-class, and low-income families and our athletes. It thrives in suburban, urban, and rural youth populations. It includes high achievers and average students and athletes. It involves every ethnicity and every kind of household. As one student athlete reminded me, "A lot of people think it’s just low-life and troubled kids who drink and do weed. But it’s not. Everybody’s doing it…" Realizing that today’s kids, of course, overestimate on the norms side of predictions of use, they certainly know better than any adult what their friends and peers are doing. For adults to side with norms adjusters, who would have us believe that youth behaviors are greatly exaggerated is the basis for much of our problem in confronting the surge in marijuana use by our youth. Imagine an athlete who has been caught in a violation for using marijuana. They will receive the same consequences for use of marijuana as for drinking a beer. What is the difference? Well first, marijuana is classified as an illicit street drug. Alcohol is an illegal drug by age (21 years for anyone who forgot).  Through decades of desensitization, we have arrived at a time and place, where both are now side by side on the same shelf. What a colossal mistake. To think as many do, that alcohol is the dangerous one… that pot isn’t as bad, doesn’t make people violent, doesn’t kill people etc. etc…rationalize away.  Make no mistake if you catch one student athlete using pot or if they are arrested for possession, the first thing that should go through your mind as a coach, AD or parent is this “I wonder how many others are using”???? Never forget this!!!! The strongest predictors of alcohol and drug abuse among high school athletes are social. Among high school athletes, for example, the social group dominates as the best predictor of substance use…Athletes who take drugs usually do so in a social context of one kind or another. From such data, we may conclude that athletes use drugs primarily as a function of the social group with whom they interact. This principle applies directly to casual and experimental use and indirectly to addictive use of substances.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in America today, and this has been the case for some years. Nearly 70 million Americans have used marijuana in their lifetime.  By 12th grade, 52% of youth have tried marijuana. Marijuana is a potent, intoxicating drug with long-term, cumulative effects. Unlike alcohol or most other substances of abuse, it remains in the body for as long as forty days. Heavy users can test positive for the drug even after weeks of abstinence.
The recent increase in marijuana use is very broad. Some of the reasons for this shift are young people’s attitudes about how dangerous marijuana is. Young people have to see the danger as it applies to them and to their behavior. They are not seeing it in our world. Media, music, television, movies, desensitize them more and more leading them toward use and abuse. A significant change in the perception of the risk of heavy marijuana use will be hard to sell.

Even with the advent of the UCLA brain maturation study, which chronicles late stage brain development well into the teen and early adulthood years, we lazily drift along failing to use this valuable information as educational ammunition for prevention and intervention programs that might help youth make their decisions based on alarmist consequence beliefs. To think that we can show someone structural damage in scans, and have them realize the mistake they have made or will make and to then offer hope to the same group that young brain plasticity can actually reclaim damaged areas. This much needed approach is missing in action. Failure by our leaders in this field to provide the most powerful message we have in lieu of pathetic prevention education programs, governmentally approved and rubber stamped, packaged and sold, nearly as insidious as a drug headed to market via our pharmacy venues.

More Athletes Turning to Marijuana:

Marijuana use by athlete population is on the rise. Alcohol strategies are making it increasingly more difficult to access alcohol and as a result pot use even in the athlete population is becoming more prevalent. The recent additions of breathalyzer testing for school functions, as well as the anticipated plan for public schools to formulate a process and procedure to deal with students under the influence of alcohol at school or in conjunction with school functions, which will be drug testing (breathalyzer), will only support a continued increase in pot use. The unfortunate use of pot in the professional levels of sport also has had a very significant effect on young athletes’ decisions on use.

I was in Ohio last week and heard a great example of this athlete/pot culture. One of the high schools that I had presented for had a running back who had accepted a full ride to Ohio State University. Toward the end of the season, he was caught for possession of marijuana and subsequently received a phone call from the Head Football coach pulling the offer and informing the young man he could now try out as a walk –on. Tragic! Can you imagine that in a moment, this young man’s life had taken such a turn, from telling his classmates that he would be going to Ohio State, to losing it all, in an instant. Our only hope is that he learns from his mistake and perhaps still reaches success but his chances have been greatly reduced.

Back in a Uniform… Are you sure?

This brings into question another very important topic, which is that when you document a marijuana violation with a student athlete and then suspend them the duration of the suspension initiates a possible liability situation for any school district public or private. Think about it?

1. How long can marijuana’s active ingredient remain in your system? (See chart below)… 2.What is the going rate for a pot violation? * 3. What if an athlete is put back in play (practice or competition and sustains a serious injury (example neck/spinal, brain injury etc.) 4.  Is there any liability on the part of the school district who knowingly allowed the athlete to return to play, without first requiring the individual to pass a legitimate FDA approved drug test to verify that they have cleared the THC from their system? Get out your checkbook and write some numbers with lots of zeros after it.


It is clear that state school districts and sport organizations have overlooked this potentially dangerous scenario. AAI suggests this be a topic for serious and immediate discussion as soon as possible.



If a coach or teacher or AD even smells pot on an individual, they should confront that individual and in the case of a student athlete, that suspicion should be enough to request that the individual take a legitimate test for marijuana/THC. Of course the parent would be notified as to the nature of concern and the legitimate legal requirement for the test that would in our venue be the health and safety of the individual, engaged in high level physical activity. Think about it… If you smelled alcohol on one of your athletes would you not confront it? Of course you would. Don’t turn your back on pot.

What Marijuana can do for Athletics?
Marijuana is a dangerous drug for anyone who uses it. It is a drug that if ever legalized would cripple the youth population in this or any country. In one small rural school district I recently visited, the marijuana use rate by 12th grade was 47.5%. Most small rural schools have a participation rate of 65-90% for students that compete in at least one sport season. That school had a participation rate of only 30%. Pot ruins motivation at that age for some. Unfortunately, the “Just Do It” generation functions well enough with pot use to continue to show up. We are seeing the first generation of youth who have averted the a-motivational syndrome. They use pot and show up every day much like an adult who has found enough motivation not to have it affect attendance at work etc. Without any doubt, pot use ruins dreams. My perspective is based on what I have seen in my travels nation-wide.  Athletics is the last place that should rationalize that marijuana is acceptable






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