Pro-pot billboard's message to NFL: Stop driving players to drink

The NFL is set to kick off Thursday night in uncharted territory - a state where it's now legal to smoke marijuana.

So it's perhaps no surprise that in Denver, the NFL is taking heat for its ban on marijuana -- in the form of a billboard next to Sports Authority Field at Mile High just before the Broncos season opener.

CBS4 in Denver reports that the billboard is paid for by the Marijuana Policy Project, which argues that because marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington the NFL shouldn't punish any player across the country for using it.

"Here in Colorado, where voters have said marijuana should be legal it was really the perfect venue to convey this message," said group spokesman Mason Tvert.

Tvert told CBS4 that marijuana use has "nothing to do with their performance."

"The NFL is not responsible for policing marijuana," Tvert said.

The Marijuana Policy Project argues that strict league policies that carry the threat of suspensions and fines only drive players to use alcohol instead.

"Their current policy is a bad one, and if the NFL truly cares about the health and safety of their athletes, they would allow the players to make the safer choice and use marijuana instead of alcohol," Tvert said.

He said he hopes an online petition that is being circulated along with the billboard will convey the same message to the NFL.

The billboard is scheduled to be in place until Sept. 22.

The NFL declined to comment about it.

As Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio notes, players who are not in the NFL's substance-abuse program are tested once a year for marijuana. And after being tested, those players are free to smoke as much as they want until they are tested again 12 months later.

Perhaps that's why former NFL star Ricky Williams routinely smoked pot before games, according to his then-Dolphins teammate Channing Crowder.

"Remember that Buffalo game, the 200-yard game?" Crowder said during an appearance on WQAM radio in Miami. "Smoked the night before. Talk to Ricky. He was doing it, that's what he did. Ricky has social anxiety and he smoked weed. Ricky's marijuana didn't affect the team until he got caught smoking. ... Him smoking weed, sitting at his house smoking weed, didn't affect anybody but Ricky. He got high and then he sobered up and then he went to practice the next day."

The Buffalo game that Crowder cites took place on Dec. 1, 2002. Williams rushed for 228 yards and scored two touchdowns.