Cannabis in America

Synthetic Marijuana Added to NFL’s Banned Substances List

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The NFL and the NFL Players’ Association have officially added synthetic marijuana to the list of banned substances. Players will be tested for synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice,” “K2,” and “blaze,” just like any of the other nine substances on the banned list, including marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana is a growing trend in the U.S., and refers to a few different kinds of products. According to the NIH:

Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of man-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called ‘synthetic marijuana’ (or ‘fake weed’), and they are often marketed as ‘safe,’ legal alternatives to that drug. In fact, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or even life-threatening.

Synthetic marijuana has been all over the news a lot lately–a massive group overdose on K2 in Brooklyn, New York this summer worried many observers. Thirty-three people were hospitalized in that incident. Synthetic marijuana, due to the fact that it can be produced in different formulas, is hard to render illegal. Once one particular combination is outlawed, another pops up.

There have been a couple recent instances of players behaving strangely after taking synthetic marijuana. Chandler Jones, who was on the New England Patriot’s roster at the time but was later traded to the Arizona Cardinals, was hospitalized after having a bad reaction to the drug. Derrick Coleman, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks also allegedly took synthetic marijuana before becoming involved in a hit-and-run accident.

The NFL and NFLPA also released a few other changes to the drug policies, including the rule that any drug tests in the offseason use samples that are produced no more than four hours after the players are notified. According to the Denver Post, the list of banned performance enhancing drugs now includes “growth hormone secretagogues and growth hormone-releasing hormones and peptides.”

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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