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Former Rays # 1 pick suspended


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Pretty good article on the issue...


In some ways, the story is already written: Beckham is a troubled young player whose recreational excesses are smothering his promise as a ballplayer. When the phrase "drug of abuse" is thrown around, the narrative doesn't particularly care whether it's meth or crack or marijuana. But we as fans, journalists and observers should be concerned with such distinctions.

If Topkin's report is true, then Beckham -- a grown man, let us remember -- has tested positive for a substance that is orders of magnitude less harmful, both to the physical and emotional self and to the society about us, than, say, the culturally sanctioned drug of alcohol. Simply put, the word "drugs" in this context is at once too encompassing of a rubric (marijuana is classed alongside heroin, for instance) and too conveniently circumscribed (alcohol and nicotine are acceptable, while marijuana is some kind of social menace). To put a finer point on it, he's tested positive for a substance that, were he on the 40-man roster, would carry no penalty whatsoever.


So assume that Beckham has indeed used marijuana, and then assume that he's able to moderate that usage. How is what he did any more condemnable than, say, throwing back a few cans of domestic swill in the clubhouse? It's certainly far less of a moral affront than getting a DUI in spring training, which, lest you forget, carries no penalty as far as MLB is concerned.


All of this "Reefer Madness"-style hysteria, of course, has led to a federal policy toward marijuana that's an inexcusable encroachment upon basic freedoms (why shouldn't adults be able to smoke a plant in their own homes without fear of arrest and prosecution?) and a colossal waste of law-enforcement dollars and resources. Predictably enough, that policy has cascaded down to professional sports leagues, where those athletes who smoke a joint are subject to ministerial scolding from the (possibly drunk) fan on the couch and solemn, career-altering discplinary actions from on high.


There is, of course, a depressingly banal public-relations dynamic to all of this. No league, after all, wants to be seen as coddling "drug users," but the entire dynamic could stand a bit of nuance. (A toke from the "objective pipe," if you will.) Partaking of marijuana, if done in moderation and while not operating anything with wheels and-or internal-combustion engine, is not some grave moral failing. It's also not enough make Tim Beckham a bad guy or a ballplayer who's derelict in his professional obligations. His struggles to date, you know, may have far more to do with the fact that playing baseball at such a level is really, really hard.


Just because policies toward marijuana -- legal, league or otherwise -- are borne of ignorance doesn't mean our opinions must be. So, yes, we should care about this. We should care that these ridiculous protocols and snap judgments remain too much with us.


Tags: Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay Rays, MLB






Whole paradigm is pretty ridiculous.

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