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Jed York comments on medical marijuana for players, gambling

A couple weeks ago, a show called "This Week In Startups" aired a Q&A the host had with San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York. The episode is 72 minutes, but York is the main guest for the first 32 minutes. You can watch the video here. Below the video, they break down when York talks about different subjects, if you prefer skipping around. I believe this was recorded in mid-October.

York gets criticized for plenty, rightly so in some instances, but in this interview, he made some very interesting remarks about a couple topics I find interesting. Please keep the discussion focused on what York had to say in this podcast, and not turning it into general complaining about York.

On legalizing gambling

York was asked early on about the issues surrounding FanDuel and daily fantasy sports. At the 12 minute mark, the host mentions Adam Silver's article last year in which he suggested it was time for a new approach with regard to gambling. Silver wrote that the time has come to legalize and regulate sports betting. Jed had this to say:

The NFL has a little bit different take than the NBA on legalized gambling. I definitely think that there is a clear separation between fantasy and gambling. But when you look at what happens in the UK, there's gambling on anything and everything in the UK, and there's enough evidence that suggests gambling helps take away some of the issues. Because you can see real time, if there's a big swing on a game here or there, it generally means that something's going on. And you can track that now. It's not like it's in the gray market or the black market. If it's out there in the open, you can see it.

So I certainly understand Adam Silver's position. But I also understand Roger Goodall's position of, OK, let's just be careful before we dive into that. And I think that's the approach the NFL will continue to take is, we'll monitor it, and if there's something to make us change our mind, we will. But I think at some point, you're going to see gaming more active in professional sports in the United States.

You have a lot of people that bet in the gray markets, and potentially black markets in the United States. So, I think there's no perfect answer. I'm not advocating people go gamble their life savings away on a game, but people do that. And I think the more that you do things out in the open, the chances are, transparency is a good thing.

As many of you are aware, I am a fan of sports betting. York seems to recognize the reality of the situation when he says that at some point we'll see gaming more active in professional sports. It is deeply embedded in European sports, and eventually opinions will soften on it. I think it is going to be some time before that happens. For now, states can maintain their hypocritical stances on state lotteries, and the NFL can maintain its hypocritical stance of happily taking money from casinos for sponsorship deals, and hosting events there but preventing players from doing similar things. But I digress.

On marijuana

The other topic that was an interesting discussion point was marijuana. There was much discussion about the ability to order stuff to your seat at Levi's Stadium. At the 24 minute mark, the host made a joke about on-demand weed at the stadium. York and the host got into a brief discussion about marijuana, leading to this comment:

Medicinally, it's 20, 30 states. When I look at, especially our players, and players in all professional sports, is it healthier to smoke a joint after a game to kind of come down and relax yourself, or to go drink a case of beer? [host: Or take Percocet, or vicodine] Or take something. And you have people who will do those things, and not just in the NFL, but across all the major sports. And I think if you started today, this is alcohol, and this is cannabis, like what's healthier for you, what's better for you, I don't know that you'd have a clear cut winner. And the alcohol industry would be what it is today, and cannabis would be pushed to the side.

Prior to this, York made a joke about how marijuana might cut down on fights since people are more relaxed with it. The way he was talking about weed, I can almost picture York hitting up his bong back in college.

It was kind of amusing, but I also think it raised some good points about marijuana as an option over pain killers. Over the summer, Mike Freeman wrote a great article that looked at the use of marijuana in the NFL. The league has long had a problem with painkiller distribution to players. Allowing marijuana, or at least choosing not to test for it seems like one way to help players deal with the pain, but not get into a problem with prescription drug addiction.

Jed York is among the younger representatives of the NFL. The bulk of ownership are still older, more conservative people. The group will get younger, and potentially a little more progressive, but it is going to be a slow process. I don't expect marijuana testing to end or gambling to be more embedded in the league anytime soon. But maybe we'll see it at some point in the future.