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TheStreet Open House

NFL Marijuana Rules Dousing Johnny Manziel Buzz

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Cleveland Browns fans should be ecstatic this week.

They should be marveling at the fact that their team -- the same franchise that's put up exactly three winning seasons in the last 20 years and only two since returning to Cleveland as an expansion team in 1999 -- managed to pull Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with their first-round pick and then trade up to get Heisman Trophy-winning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the same round. They should be overjoyed that their team just extended the contract of their other standout cornerback, Joe Haden, for five years.

They should be at least grateful that their team is taking enough positive steps to distance itself from the legal quandary facing owner Jimmy Haslam's Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, which is being scrutinized by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for potential fraud related to a fuel rebate offer.

Instead, the Browns' fan base is being subjected to its own, endless screening of Reefer Madness. Thanks to the dogged efforts of ESPN's Outside The Lines crack investigative team, we've learned that Browns' wide receiver and potential Johnny Football target Josh Gordon failed a drug test for marijuana. Since he also failed a test for codeine-laced cough syrup a few months earlier, he may be facing a season-long ban by the NFL.

It would be a tough loss, considering Gordon caught 87 passes for more than 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns in a fairly weak Browns offense last season, but it would be a punishment almost completely out of step with the rest of the country's views on marijuana handed out by a league that's still fighting Joe Namath/Johnny Unitas culture wars 50 years later.

It's going to make NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell clutch his pearls into a fine powder to hear this, but the country's actually coming around on marijuana. Forget the fact that this year's Super Bowl teams -- the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos -- came from states where voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana on a local level. Forget, too, that Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alabama, North Carolina, New York and the Browns' home state of Ohio have largely decriminalized it. We'll even let it slide that Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New Hampshire have OK'd it for medical purposes.

Last year, for the first time, a majority of U.S. citizens came out in favor of legalization of marijuana. A Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans felt it should be legalized, compared to just 12% the first time Gallup asked the question in 1969. That gap isn't closing either, According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in February, 70% of respondents between 18 and 29 believe marijuana should be legalized. Comparatively, 32% of people 65 and older support legalization.

Guess which age group nearly two thirds of NFL owners fall into?

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