Americans are "living in an environment where there's a greater tolerance of use, not just among the young and experimenters but also the old and afflicted," says Harry Edwards, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of sports sociology who works with major sports leagues on off-field issues. Recently, the researchers of a study in Sports Medicine wrote that athletes claim "smoking cannabis before play helps them focus better" and increases their creativity, and prior studies have found use among athletes to decrease anxiety, fear, depression and tension.
With social mores shifting toward wider acceptance, as they did long ago in Oregon, athletes who toke see little difference between marijuana and more acceptable, legal drugs, such as alcohol. Spend a night with an off-duty pro and you're more likely to see him high than drunk. One NBA player's recent charity event devolved into players from rival teams hotboxing the DJ booth and bonding over blunts. At another fundraiser, Snoop Dogg asked the audience -- many of whom were NFL and NBA players -- to pass him some weed, and they showered him with flaming joints. One professional athlete likes to tell the story of a traffic stop that ended with the officer telling him to leave his weed at home -- "and good luck this season."