This has already sparked outrage from all sides, and might result in a lawsuit.
In a move that’s sure to spark both controversy and discussion over the treatment of medical marijuana in the sporting world, Buffalo Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson has been hit with a severe ten-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy .
Henderson suffers from Crohn’s disease and claims that his marijuana use served as a treatment for his off-season diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, which impacts the intestinal tract. He underwent two surgeries, one of which removed a portion of his intestine. Since the diagnosis and surgeries he’s lost a great deal of weight, impacting his ability to play.
By way of background, here’s a video that explains the treatments and symptoms of Crohn’s disease:
Crohn’s is more regularly treated with the administration of steroids, which also fall on the league’s list of banned substances. Many afflicted with the disease have relied successfully on medical marijuana treatment to address both pain and appetite issues symptomatic of the ailment.
Complicating matters is Henderson’s history of marijuana-related infractions. He was suspended for four games earlier in the 2016 season for a similar infraction and was hit with suspensions for marijuana in college as well. It’s unclear and may never be known if he was using marijuana earlier in a medical capacity, a recreational capacity, or both.
Henderson has taken to Twitter to speak out on his perception of the hypocrisy of penalizing medical marijuana in a league that’s rife with opiod painkiller abuse among its players:
I won't get the logic of society We live in a society that abuses pain killers and throws marijuana users on suspension #NFL #freeme #crohns— Seantrel Henderson (@Seantrel Henderson)1480472968.0
The Crohn's family is stronger then most. We fall on our face sometimes but we get up stronger and made of steel #gutitout #crohns #fight— Seantrel Henderson (@Seantrel Henderson)1480473794.0
The Bills have issued a boilerplate statement on the matter, saying, "The league has notified us of the suspension, and we are moving forward with our preparations to play the Oakland Raiders this Sunday."
The suspension begins immediately and applies to all regular season and potential postseason games until the ten-game term is up.
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union doesn’t allow for any exceptions to its language on banned substances, but it’s being reported that litigation may be pursued as the act may serve as de facto discrimination against someone with a medical condition, though it’s not known exactly what tact that lawsuit would take.
Lawsuit or not, public pressure on the much-maligned league will certainly ensure that the conversation on its drug policy doesn’t stop with the suspension.