by Harry Dole
The countries of Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands have decriminalized the possession and personal use of cannabis in one way or another. What effect has this had on their professional soccer organizations, which are the equivalent of American sports leagues? Let’s take a closer look.
Since implementing decriminalization legislation, all three of the aforementioned European countries have had few, if any, high profile incidents involving professional athletes and marijuana use. In fact, compared to narcotic incidents involving American professional and college athletes, marijuana is a non-issue in these European countries. Certainly, from this perspective, it would appear that cannabis prohibition may lead to more problems than decriminalization. European soccer is notorious for scandals involving game fixing. There are very few scandals which involve illicit drug use by athletes.
Furthermore, all three European nations have had very successful national soccer programs. Spain, who is the cream of the crop, won the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo, who is arguably the best soccer player in the world, is Portuguese. As for the Netherlands, their national team has been a perennial fixture on the international scene since Johan Cruyff was named the top player of the 1974 World Cup.
Relaxation of marijuana laws in Spain, Portugal and Holland has in no way hindered the performance of their athletes on the national and international stage. In addition, the more permissive drug laws have not led to any noticeable increase in criminal activity by athletes from these nations. By using the European model as a frame of reference, it can be surmised that legalization of marijuana would have no adverse affects on American athletes from a performance standpoint.