Almost 25% of college football players smoke weed

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About 22 percent of college athletes across college sports' three major divisions admitted smoking marijuana in the last year, according to a study from the NCAA's Research Department.

Lacrosse players for both men and women headed the list, with 46 percent of male athletes and 21 percent of female athletes reporting marijuana use.

College football came in at the middle of the pack for the 10 men's teams listed in the survey, with around 24 percent reporting that they had smoked the herb in the last year.

Meanwhile, 19 percent of men's college basketball admitted to using bud, the second-lowest total of the men's sports.

The NCAA touted the figure as showing that drug restrictions on athletes work.

Specifically, the research team pointed to a figure which showed that the "22 percent figure" was lower than the 33 percent reported by college students in general.

Trouble when caught

College football and basketball players often are the subject of intense outside criticism.

Whenever a player gets in trouble, fans and opponents alike gather to throw insults. If that player is subsequently kicked off the team, he or she is called a "bust" or a "bad egg," a "locker room cancer" or a "mistake."

A simple toke can lead to severe consequences for some college players.

Former Baylor receiver Josh Gordon and a teammate were found parked outside a local Taco Bell, and police found marijuana in the teammate's car. He later failed a drug tested and was suspended.

He eventually was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 Supplementary Draft.

Gordon had a scintillating first NFL season, which he followed up with a dominant sophomore year where he finished with a Pro Bowl berth and 1,646 receiving yards (while only playing in 12 games).

However, after another failed drug test - one that his lawyers are challenging due to possible mistakes in the gathering process - Gordon could be required to sit out the entire 2014-15 season.

Michigan forward Mitch McGary declared for the NBA Draft this spring after a drug test came out positive for marijuana. He would have been suspended for the entire upcoming season if he had decided to stay on.

His decision turned out well enough for him, after he was drafted with the 21st pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A question of stigma

Do athletes deserve such criticism when they are caught doing something as relatively harmless as smoking marijuana?

After all, the drug is now legal in two states - Washington and Colorado - and is used recreationally by a large portion of the college student population.

And if the goal is to get athletes a decent education, or at least set them up for success in later life, why should they be punished for what is a minor violation compared to such issues as PED and steroid use?

Plenty of athletes are smoking marijuana, as this study shows.

The punishments aren't affecting use.

So maybe it's time to ease up a bit and see what happens when athletes aren't criticized for a crime as relatively harmless as this.

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