Opinion: Chandler Jones' 'bad trip' on Spice is the result of bad NFL policy


For fans of the New England Patriots, it’s the type of story you dread waking up to: A franchise player like defensive end Chandler Jones caught doing something on the fringe of the rulebook. Instead of dubious science regarding ball pressure, this time it’s scientifically created doobies sending a professional athlete on a sojourn to the local hospital.

I’m sure Bill Belichick is thrilled.

When I first read The Boston Globe report that Patriots star Chandler Jones had a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana over the weekend, I felt for him. I’ve had a number of “bad trips” and uncomfortable highs from remarkable weed in my day, but they pale in comparison to the experiences people report on Spice or K2, two popular types of the fake herb. When there are enough videos online to make several NSFW compilations of people writhing on the ground or puking on themselves after a single hit, I’ll pass.

But why, Chandler Jones?

So why was Chandler Jones, a rising star and 2015 Pro Bowler, reportedly using it days before the AFC Divisional Championship?

For a guy dealing with toe and abdomen injuries, I can’t imagine vomiting or uncontrollable body spasms are the recommended course of treatment. Add in the risk of psychosis or death, the latter of which the CDC reported 15 in early 2015, and it seems like the lessons of Aaron Hernandez’s PCP addiction were truly lost on Jones.

In a world where cannabis exists, there’s no reason to smoke Spice. Ever.

An example of “spice” (Minnesota Department of Human Services/Associated Press file)

What I can absolutely understand are the psychological benefits of cannabis. For me, a few hits can reduce stress and anxiety, and playing at the largest stage where one mistake — just ask Blair Walsh — can determine a season, I’d imagine that being able to take the edge off is a luxury for players.

My best guess as to what happened, though? He just needed some sleep. He fired up some spice — perhaps he’d read that some drug tests fail to detect synthetic marijuana — and had a terrible reaction that kept him up for hours, feeling so terrible he walked to a local police station for help. If he had been able to use the same pot as millions of Americans, this would be a non-story.

Perhaps this could have all been avoided if the NFL would take a page from hockey’s don’t ask, don’t tell pot policy — or even remove marijuana from its banned substances list entirely.

Cannabis is legal for medical use in Massachusettes, and it has been nearly two years since the commish said “We’ll continue to follow the medicine.” For all of his paeans about player safety, Goodell continues to turn a blind eye to cannabis as a viable alternative to pain killers, not to mention studies on the neuroprotective benefits of cannabidiol. He probably hasn’t had time to see “Concussion” yet, too busy spending considerable time and money still fighting DeflateGate.

Spice may be dangerous, but so is the NFL’s paternalistic relationship with its players that continues to force them into making poor decisions.

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