Last night, during the first round of the NFL draft, your Denver Broncos selected standout linebacker Shane Ray during the same week he received a misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession.
The pot incident allowed the Broncos to nab Ray, who would have gone much higher in the draft without the cannabis cloud hanging over his head — and no shortage of commentators have noted the irony of him winding up in the first state to legalize limited recreational cannabis sales.
Will he be tempted by the sweet smoke again? If he is, he has a little more leeway than tokers from the past. This past September, the NFL tweaked its pot policy. Marijuana remains a banned substance, but the threshold for an offense has been raised from 15 ng/ml to 35 ng/ml — and additional steps must be followed before anyone is suspended.
But despite these changes, the NFL's approach remains controversial among cannabis reformers, since marijuana is widely regarded to have medical benefits and doesn't have the performance-enhancing qualities associated with, for instance, steroids and human growth hormones.
With luck, Ray will be able to avoid the fate of these thirteen previous Broncos, all of whom were suspended for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy — some for unspecified offenses, others for use of 'roids, ephedra or other substances. But one of Ray's new teammates reportedly wound up on the league's radar because of weed.
Here's hoping Ray avoids becoming number fourteen on this list. Count down the photo-illustrated roster below.
Number 1: Richard Reed, DE, Denver Broncos
August 6, 1988
Philly.com: "The NFL, nine days after suspending former all-pro defensive end Dexter Manley of the Washington Redskins for 30 days, announced yesterday that six other players would serve the same penalty for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"The league announced that running back Doug DuBose of the San Francisco 49ers, defensive end Greg Townsend of the Los Angeles Raiders, running back Robb Riddick of the Buffalo Bills, tackle Kevin Gogan of the Dallas Cowboys, defensive end Richard Reed of the Denver Broncos and offensive lineman Pat Saindon of the Atlanta Falcons had been placed on their clubs' non-football illness list for 30 days, retroactive to Wednesday...."
Number 2: Orson Mobley, TE, Denver Broncos
August 30, 1989
Chicago Tribune: "Quarterbacks and kickers were the only positions clean of steroid use when the National Football League suspended 13 players Tuesday. Two others, Los Angeles Rams cornerback LeRoy Irvin and Denver Broncos tight end Orson Mobley, were suspended for using other illegal substances....
"Last season, 24 players were suspended temporarily for abuse of cocaine, marijuana or alcohol under the league`s drug policy. Like Irvin and Mobley, those players were second-time offenders; the steroid users were first-time offenders under a stronger program initiated by Commissioner Pete Rozelle last March...."
Number 3: Dale Carter, CB, Denver Broncos
April 11, 2000 Indefinite
(Later reinstated Nov. 2001)
CBS News: "Denver Broncos cornerback Dale Carter on Tuesday was suspended by the NFL for one year for violating the league's substance-abuse policy....
"Already a two-time offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Carter is believed to have missed at least two drug tests in January and February. The NFL, which declined to comment specifically on Carter's case, counts a missed test the same as a failed test...."
Number 4: Lee Flowers, LB, Denver Broncos
July 26, 2003
ESPN: "Denver Broncos safety Lee Flowers was suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's banned substances policy.
"Flowers said he tested positive for ephedra, an over-the-counter stimulant that speeds the heart rate and constricts blood vessels, but wasn't aware the supplement was in his system. He said his positive test stemmed from a vitamin he took in December."
Number 5: Adrian Madise, WR, Denver Broncos
September 6, 2004
Orlando Sentinel: "Denver Broncos WR Adrian Madise has been suspended for four games for using anabolic steroids in violation of the NFL's substance policy. Madise, who was already sidelined by a broken hand suffered in the Broncos' last preseason game last week, said he would not appeal...."
Number 6: Todd Sauerbrun, P, Denver Broncos
July 7, 2006
ESPN: "Broncos punter Todd Sauerbrun was suspended for the first month of the season after testing positive for the banned supplement ephedra, a person close to the player said Friday...."
Number 7: Kenny Peterson, DE, Denver Broncos
July 6, 2007
ESPN: "Denver Broncos defensive end Kenny Peterson has been suspended without pay for violating the NFL's steroid policy, the team said Friday....
"The Broncos released an NFL statement saying Peterson will be suspended without pay for the first four games of 2007 starting Aug. 31. The statement said Peterson had violated the policy on anabolic steroids and related substances but didn't specify what he had done...."
Number 8: D.J. Williams, LB, Denver Broncos
March 9, 2012
ESPN: "The Denver Broncos will be without linebacker D.J. Williams until mid-November after the NFL added three games to his suspension Friday. Williams was punished for violating the league's substance abuse policy following his conviction in August of driving while ability impaired.
"He already was serving a six-game suspension to start the season for violating the league's banned-substances policy — such as performance enhancing drugs — after the NFL said he supplied a 'non-human' urine sample during a drug test...."
Number 9: Ryan McBean, DT, Denver Broncos
March 9, 2012
Pro Football Talk: "When the NFL decided to suspend defensive lineman Ryan McBean six games for violating the policy against performance-enhancing substances, he immediately promised a lawsuit that would argue that the league improperly handled the testing. But now that lawsuit has been dropped.
"McBean has settled his lawsuit and agreed to a three-game suspension...."
Number 10: Virgil Green, TE, Denver Broncos
March 9, 2012
SBNation: "Green was serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, which was announced in March. Green said he tested positive for an attention deficit hyperactivity medication that was prescribed to him, but which he had not yet cleared through the league...."
Number 11: Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
August 20, 2013
USA Today: "A person with knowledge of Miller's situation told USA TODAY Sports last month that this suspension was not triggered by a positive test. That person confirmed that Miller had tested positive for marijuana during his rookie season of 2011.
"That first failed test would have placed Miller in the league's drug intervention program....
Number 12: Matt Prater, K, Denver Broncos
August 23, 2014
Washington Post: "Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater is facing a four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the substance-abuse policy.
"This, though, is where it gets weird. The suspension, according to the Denver Post, is alcohol-related because Prater has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse since being charged with driving under the influence in August 2011...."
Number 13: Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
September 2, 2014
4 games (Later reinstated)
USA Today: "Thanks to an agreement that overturned their four-game drug-related bans, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, St. Louis receiver Stedman Bailey and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will each be eligible to play for the first time this season on Sunday. Each had tested positive for a banned amphetamine in the offseason, a violation that is no longer classified under the performance enhancing drug policy...."