Back in the early 1970s there were some hippie kids who attended California’s San Rafael High School and they formed a famous little group that called themselves the Waldos. According to the Urban Dictionary, the Waldos would gather at an appointed time under the statue of Louis Pasteur on the school’s campus and smoke a little marijuana together.
In order to keep the thing secret, the Waldos would pass the word during the day by greeting each other with a hand signal (thumb-and-pointer-finger-to-the-mouth) and saying simply, “420.” That way all the brethren knew to meet beside “Louie” at 4:20 p.m. to enjoy some “ginga” together.
The only reason I bring it up is because yesterday was “Weed Day” across the United States and I’m not talking about anybody’s flower garden.
You see, “420” is now a universal term for cannabis, or pot, and every April 20th you can count on catching a sniff of “burning herb” if you are in the right place. The Wall Street Journal recently reported there were 17.4 million Americans who used marijuana in 2010, up by some 3 million from a similar survey done in 2007.
I personally feel we ought to legalize the stuff and tax it. It’s everywhere because people want it to be and this nation sure can’t police it. It’s easy to find. As a matter of fact, you can find it on the police blotter any given day in just about any city you can name and – while I don’t want any part of the stuff – a growing number of politicians are advocating its medical benefits.
I was sad to see the Tennessee legislature bat it down earlier this year because I am thoroughly convinced it helps with pain, inflammation and anxiety. I’ve personally seen terminally-ill patients eat marijuana-laced brownies and the short-term results are amazing. I am a great advocate of anything that stops pain and medical studies confirm marijuana is very effective.
This week an article in the newest issue of ESPN Magazine revealed that 22.6 percent of all NCAA athletes used marijuana in 2009, this according to a January news release. At the University of Oregon, it is believed that between 40 and 60 percent of the Ducks football team regularly “tokes up” and that there has been widespread use for “at least 15 years.”
The most famous “Duck on Dope” was the sensational Cliff Harris, who got booted off the team as a junior for marijuana-related reasons but who will likely be drafted by the NFL next week due to his athleticism and his frank explanation. “I was young. I was dumb. I made some bonehead moves.”
Chip Kelly, the Ducks’ football coach, blasted the belief that half his team smokes dope. “"If we had that many kids doing it, we wouldn't be 34-6,” Kelly pointed to his last three seasons. We win because of how hard we practice, and I see our kids every day in practice," Kelly said. "If we saw signs of it - I haven't seen signs of it."
Oregon, of course, is one of the most “420 friendly” states in the country. It was among the first in the nation to offer marijuana for medical uses and today there are 55,000 patients who are eligible to buy it. “I think it's a problem that's on every college campus right now," Kelly also said. "I think the biggest thing, our responsibility as coaches is to educate our guys on what the dangers are."
Kelly went further. “It’s not just ‘don’t do it because if you get caught, here are the ramifications.’ But ‘you shouldn’t be doing it because of, really, the effects that it has on you.’”
It’s true. Sports, a revealing microcosm of our society, is rampant with marijuana use and one of the most perplexing dilemmas that coaches have is whether to gamble on a player they believe uses marijuana: do you take the kid and hope he doesn’t get caught or, do you drop him, only to see him across the field from you the next year?
That said, how often should a school drug test its athletes? Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Auburn – among others -- have all had marijuana problems surface this spring. USA Today had a huge article about former Florida coach Urban Meyer being at Ohio State yesterday and it was mentioned in his six-year stint in Gainesville there were 31 arrests involving 25 different players.
“I don’t want to disparage any other program but Ohio State is different than Florida,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said. “We have a drug-testing policy that is probably the toughest in the country,” he added, noting OSU has three-strikes-and-you’re-through while the Gators are reportedly now allowing five chances to each student-athlete.
“These young people are growing up in a culture where smoking a joint is no different than having a beer,” Bill Moos, the athletic director at Washington State told ESPN and he’s right – that’s the way an amazing number of Americans feel about it.There are even personals ads that read “420 friendly” so you might as well get used to “Weed Day” coming along every April 20th. The stuff isn’t going away.