Minnesota Vikings running back Roc Thomas, 24, has been suspended for three games for violating the NFL's drug policies.
The suspension follows Thomas' arrest back in May, when he was busted with five ounces of cannabis. Possessing that much marijuana in Minnesota is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Thomas, however, avoided doing time and was sentenced to three years of probation instead.
Under his suspension, Thomas will be benched for the first three games of the upcoming season. The first game Thomas will be eligible to play will be on September 29th when the Vikings take on the Chicago Bears. Thomas will still be allowed to attend the Vikings' training camp, and to play in the preseason.
Those punishments might seem light considering how harsh Minnesota's cannabis laws are, and how strict the NFL's cannabis ban is. But the leniency that Thomas received doesn't change the fact that it's ridiculous to lock people up or jeopardize their careers for possessing a plant that is less dangerous than many legal substances. If authorities had caught Thomas with 5 ounces of alcohol or tobacco, there wouldn't have been a problem.
Hopefully Thomas's suspension will be one of the last issued by the NFL, which is taking a serious look at overhauling its cannabis policy. Last May, the league announced plans to study medical marijuana as a potential pain management tool for their players. And some retired players hope that the league will allow athletes to use medicinal cannabis under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which will be negotiated next year.
However, there has been no indication that the league will allow recreational use. So players like Thomas could still face suspensions and other penalties if they got caught using cannabis without a medical card.