The New Orleans Saints’ season came to a tragic and controversial end on January 20, when the team lost the NFC Championship to the Los Angeles Rams. But Saints rookie defensive tackle David Onyemata had a decent season, racking up 4.5 sacks and 35 tackles over 18 regular and postseason games. Next year, with other DTs out with injuries, the Saints may need to rely on Onyemata more than ever. But Onyemata could be sitting the bench to start the regular season, thanks to a recent misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession in New Orleans.
Saints DT David Onyemata Given Misdemeanor Citation For Possessing Cannabis for Personal Use
If the League decides to take action, David Onyemata is likely looking at a four-game suspension to start the 2019-2020 NFL season. That’s the typical punishment the League doles out to players who face even small cannabis-related charges, like the citation Onyemata received on January 29.
On January 29, a little over a week after the Saints’ season ended, Jefferson Parish sheriffs raided Onyemata’s Elmwood apartment. Officers were responding to a tip from an unnamed informant that “a quantity of marijuana products” would be at a Citrus Boulevard apartment. After obtaining a warrant, sheriffs conducted a search of the apartment, which turned out to belong to Onyemata.
As a result of the search, officers discovered cannabis, oil, edibles and hemp powder, according to agency Capt. Jason Rivarde. Rivarde said Onyemata “was cooperative” with investigators throughout the search. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released any info on the quantity of cannabis seized. But Rivarde believes the cannabis products were just for Onyemata’s personal use. Nevertheless, the defensive tackle did not have a medical cannabis authorization. So sheriffs issued Onyemata an “arrest via summons” to appear in court at a later date.
Like Marijuana Laws, League Policy on Player Weed Use Needs to Change
In June 2016, New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance allowing police to issue a summons instead of making custodial arrests for simple marijuana possession. Since then, arrests stemming from an accusation of weed possession have dropped to just 1 percent, from 15 percent the year prior. In other words, the policy change sharply reduced the arrests police made for cannabis possession.
But that doesn’t mean encounters with police over suspicion of cannabis possession have decreased. Now, those encounters are just more likely to lead to fines than jail time, at least in New Orleans. Judging that Onyemata was simply possessing cannabis for personal use—like countless players in the doggedly anti-cannabis NFL—sheriffs gave Onyemata a citation instead of arresting him.
Still, no one who has some cannabis for personal use should have to deal with police and face possible arrest, or worse. Like federal and state governments, the National Football League needs to acknowledge that people use cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. Many NFL players and other pro-athletes have blasted the hypocrisy of League rules that permits and encourages players to consume addictive, harmful opioid painkillers, antidepressants, sleep aids and other pharmaceuticals.
Players, coaches, fans, ex-players, club owners have all spoken out about the need for a policy change in the NFL. In recent years, that advocacy has caused the NFL to budge a little. The League is beginning to research the medical benefits of cannabis for its players. It has even floated the idea of a CBD-based concussion recovery pill.