- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Jermaine Kearse smiled before the question was even finished.

Should the NFL - and all professional leagues, for that matter - stop testing players for marijuana?

“Awww, man, why do you have to put me on the spot like that?” the Seattle Seahawks receiver griped.

Persuaded this wasn’t one of those gotcha moments during Super Bowl week, Kearse tepidly came up with a reply.

“Whatever is best for the players,” he said.

The best thing for players in every league, be it the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball, would be to remove pot from the list of banned substances. No one should ever have to endure what Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner is going through.

Instead of playing in the biggest game of his life, he’s stuck at home, forced to watch the game on TV like most everyone else, because of a positive test for marijuana. Since he had also tested positive as a rookie back in 2005, not to mention some issues over whether he should have continued to be tested even when he wasn’t employed by an NFL team, Browner is suspended indefinitely and could wind up missing a full season.

“If marijuana is legal in some states, I don’t understand how an employer has the right to control what an employee does after working hours,” said Peter Schaffer, Browner’s agent. “It’s just not right.”

No, it’s not.

The NFL Players Association needs to get crackin’ on this issue right away, even as it tries to reach agreement with the league on a matter that has gotten far more attention: testing for human growth hormone, a performance enhancing drug that is difficult to detect.

As it stands now, pot is lumped with cocaine, meth, opiates and PCP as a banned “substance of abuse,” even though there’s no evidence to suggest that it’s nearly as harmful as those more powerful drugs. In fact, proponents of legalizing marijuana will insist that it causes fewer problems than booze, and they make a pretty compelling case.

In the NFL, the first positive test for any of those drugs requires a player to enter the league’s treatment program. Subsequent violations result in a fine and then a four-game suspension.

The NBA’s policy on marijuana is similar: treatment after the first positive test, a $25,000 fine if it happens again, a five-game suspension for the third violation.

The NHL’s policy is a bit murky, with league and union officials giving conflicting answers over possible penalties for marijuana use. Essentially, it seems, if a hockey player has “dangerously high levels” of pot in his system during testing - whatever that means - he is placed in the league’s substance-abuse program.

The guidelines in baseball are the most convoluted of all, setting different standards for major and minor leaguers. For those on the 40-man roster, the use of marijuana, hashish and synthetic THC is not subject to a suspension, and there have been no announced penalties of any kind for pot use since the Joint Drug Agreement went into effect more than a decade ago. For those with minor-league contracts, a second positive test brings a 50-day suspension, a third violation results in a 100-game ban, and a fourth gets you kicked out of the game for good.

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