WASHINGTON — If oddsmakers are correct, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will win Sunday’s National Football League conference championship games, advancing to a truly historic Super Bowl on Feb. 2:
The Marijuana Bowl? A return of the Bud Bowl?
The teams represent the biggest cities in Washington and Colorado, the only states that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. Now they might face off in one of the world’s biggest sporting extravaganzas.
Pot backers are tickled.
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“It’s something that those of us in the movement have had an eye on for a long time,” said Steve Fox, who works for a marijuana-industry law firm in Denver.
If the matchup does materialize, said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, it will feature “the two most pro-cannabis-legalization cities in the U.S.” He jokingly suggested that the game be renamed “The Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.”
There is a more serious side to all this.
Since Jan. 1, when Colorado opened its retail pot shops, it’s been legal to buy and use the drug, at least under state law. But it’s still illegal for NFL players who live in the state to use marijuana because it’s banned under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. That will be true in Washington, as well, when the state opens its own shops this spring.
Lobbyists are pushing the NFL to stop punishing players who fail drug tests for smoking pot, saying the drug could help them deal with concussions and other injuries.
And they want to call attention to the league’s cozy relationship with the alcohol industry: Anheuser-Busch, for example, pitches its Bud Light as the “proud sponsor of the NFL” and once aired ads showing Budweiser and Bud Light beer bottles competing in a halftime “Bud Bowl” football game.
“Hopefully there will be a break in the beer commercials for some discussion about marijuana laws,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project in Denver.
In September, the organization put up a 48-foot-wide billboard next to Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, urging the NFL to “stop driving players to drink” and saying pot represented “a safer choice” for the athletes. And the group launched a petition to pressure NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the league’s marijuana policy.
Fox pointed out that the Broncos and Seahawks lost key players this season for violating the NFL drug policy, reportedly because of marijuana use.
He said the NFL should follow the National Hockey League, which tests only for performance-enhancing drugs.
And he noted that the World Anti-Doping Agency responded to more lax drug laws in many countries last summer by loosening the marijuana standard for Olympic athletes.
Goodell caused a stir last week during an interview with ESPN.com when he left open the possibility of the league allowing players to use medical marijuana.
With the commissioner even talking about marijuana during the playoffs, St. Pierre said the public could expect to hear plenty about pot in the next two weeks, even if Seattle or Denver doesn’t win.
“I think there will be more references to pot going into the Super Bowl week media hype than any previous NFL game in history,” he said.
Comedian Jay Leno jumped in Tuesday night during his monologue on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” saying a Seattle-Denver matchup would give “a whole new meaning to the term Super Bowl.”