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Atlanta vs. New England: Who Wins the Big Game Based on Cannabis Factors?

February 1, 2017
The field at NRG Stadium is prepared for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Houston. The New England Patriots will play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
One of the biggest sporting spectacles in the world, this year’s “Big Game” between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots is gearing up to be a dandy.

The battle between the two powerhouse NFL teams begins this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET in Houston, and here at Leafly we’re aiming to to predict who will win – by using only cannabis-related factors. The three issues at hand that will help cast our deciding vote:

  • Have any of the players spoken up about cannabis, or gotten in trouble because of it?
  • What do the coaches think about cannabis?
  • How do Georgia’s and Massachusetts’ state cannabis laws compare to each other?

Round 1: Which Team’s Players Have Gotten in Trouble Because of Cannabis?

New England Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (Elise Amendola/AP)

New England Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Though there have been relatively few players from both the Falcons and the Patriots in the news due to cannabis, Falcons defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman takes the cake for most interesting story. Hageman, now in his third season in the NFL, ran into a bit of trouble during his rookie season when Instagram messages were released showing Hageman asking someone if they consumed cannabis and saying his teammates were “looking for some.”

On the Patriots side, defensive tackle Alan Branch received a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy after reportedly testing positive for cannabis, though the suspension was rescinded after Branch appealed. Star running back LaGarrette Blount was also charged for cannabis possession two years ago while in Pittsburgh with Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

Round 1 Winner: Because fewer Falcons players have run afoul of the league’s draconian cannabis policy, plus Hageman’s story wins bonus points for raising a few amused eyebrows, Round 1 goes to the mighty Falcons.

Round 2: What Do the Coaches Think of Cannabis?

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn answers questions from the media at the NFL football team's practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (David Goldman/AP)

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn answers questions from the media at the NFL football team’s practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (David Goldman/AP)

This section should actually be titled “Bill Belichick and cannabis,” but that didn’t seem totally fair to Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. With that being said, Quinn has never made headlines in cannabis, outside of the fact that he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks during the time that Washington state became one of the first two states to legalize adult-use cannabis (Colorado also passed a legalization measure that same night).

Belichick, however, has had a couple newsworthy moments related to cannabis. Ahead of a playoff game in Denver during the 2014 season, he met with the Patriots team and, according to LeGarrette Blount, talked to the team about not consuming cannabis while in the Mile High City.

“It’s a business trip,” Blount said. “Bill told us about it. He basically told us, ‘Don’t go out there and be stupid.’”

Belichick probably didn’t need to say this to his team, but either way, the Hoodie still thought it would be a good idea to remind his players to behave themselves – particularly after Belichick’s son Stephen was arrested for marijuana possession in 2006. At the time, Stephen was 19 years old and placed on probation for six months.

Round 2 Winner: Belichick has quite a few different life experiences that likely give him a negative opinion on cannabis. One thing’s for sure, if you have to tell your team not to go near cannabis before a NFL playoff game, you’re probably not big into the plant, so this one also goes to the Falcons.

Round 3: Georgia vs. Massachusetts: Which State Has Better Cannabis Laws?

Large Schooner along the Boston Harbor Skyline.

Large Schooner along the Boston Harbor skyline

This is the most clear-cut answer out of the three: Massachusetts clearly beats Georgia in terms of its laws and enforcement on cannabis. In 2016, Massachusetts was one of four states to approve adult-use cannabis legislation during the general election. 54 percent of voters approved Question 4, which permits people to legally grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce of flower or five grams of concentrate for use. Additionally, adults may legally possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis flower in their home. (Unfortunately, the state’s planned adult-use cannabis debut has been delayed significantly.)

Georgia is actually fairly progressive with its cannabis laws for being a southern state that is historically conservative; a medical CBD law allows the use of cannabis extracts that are high in CBD and low in THC to treat severe, debilitating epileptic conditions. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000, or public works for up to 12 months. Possession of over an ounce is a felony punishable by a minimum of 1 and maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Round 3 Winner: It’s not even close – Patriots by a landslide.

Leafly’s Prediction: Who Will Bring Home the Trophy?

State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia

State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia

Though Massachusetts is clearly the better state to live in if you want to consume cannabis, the Falcons seems to have better history with cannabis. No star players or main contributing players have ever been in trouble with cannabis – they’ve simply expressed interest in getting some – and they’re helmed by a great head coach from Seattle who doesn’t feel the need to admonish his players about the dubiousness of cannabis consumption. Couple that with Belichick’s troubled family history with cannabis, and the Falcons win this one.

Final Score Prediction: 34-27 Falcons

Lead Image: David J. Phillip/AP

Gage Peake's Bio Image

Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

View Gage Peake's articles

  • Fun Please

    Sure is all I can say

  • Mindful Greatness

    Unfortunately curious approach to cannabis. Authority typically disregards the authenticity of legitimate medicinal and/or recreational use without an explanation from respected physician(s) and/or university research groups without more research authorization from a cooperative/collaborative state-federal level and/or state-university/inter-collegiate-system level. There has been too much cowboys and indians action going on. Cannabis-friendly States have been responsible for regulating each of the respective domains under the eye of federal law even though they do not override state or local laws in each of the respective states.

    Excessive federal regulation over the past two decades of legitimate state-regulated implementations of therapeutic cannabis (that have improved with each successive state iteration) have marginalized parts of the cannabis industry and created a groundswell of support for their cause. The issue for NFL players and similar professional athletes (e.g. NBA, MLB, MLS, etc.) is that they routinely cross state-to-state that may or may not have regulations that support their constitutional rights to legitimate therapeutic treatments & non-therapeutic endeavors yet (e.g. Colorado, Seattle, California, etc.). That and they deal with uneducated and unenlightened operational teams that do not fully understand the benefits of medicinally or recreationally dosed cannabis products monitored by team physicians/trainers that stem from prejudice and stigma created by cultural anti-mexican propaganda in the 30s but are beginning to understand & acknowledge the potential benefits of therapeutic doses of non-psychoactive (CBD) cannabis products as an alternative and/or act as a complement/supplement to their current prescribed pain medications.

  • How’d that work out for you?