Denver Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen (81) leaves the field with his head down after the Ravens kicked a field goal in overtime to beat the Broncos. The Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game at Sports Authority Field Saturday January 12, 2013.

Legalization of marijuana "could make coaches worry" about athletes

Colorado’s new marijuana laws could create more headaches for high school coaches and more temptations for athletes.

When recreational marijuana use becomes legal Wednesday, it’s easy to see that high school athletes will be exposed to cannabis more than ever.

The law will allow adults 21 and older to buy marijuana at state-sanctioned retail stores. With more societal acceptance of marijuana use, it’s a natural assumption that high school athletes will be influenced. That concerns longtime football coach Dave Logan, now at Cherry Creek.

“For years, whether it’s drinking, or now with the pot being legalized, it trickles down, unfortunately, to ninth-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders,” Logan said. “Unfortunately, now days, you see too often that a young guy might not have the same rules when he leaves school. So it’s incumbent on us as high school coaches and mentors to not take the easy road on this and just give in.”

Last week federal drug abuse officials released results of a national survey that found marijuana legalization efforts are changing teenagers’ attitudes about cannabis.

Marijuana use by high school students has jumped the past five years, and the perceived risk by teens of using cannabis is plummeting, according to the annual report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Federal officials cited changes from 2008 to 2013: Past-month use by 12th-graders rose nationally from 19.4 percent to 22.7 percent; among 10th-graders, it rose from 13.8 percent to 18 percent.

Meanwhile, the perceived risk of using pot is near an all-time low. High school seniors who view marijuana as a risk fell to just under 40 percent.

Experts continue to debate whether heavy marijuana use by teenagers causes lasting damage to the brain.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said marijuana might affect cognitive function in adolescents by disrupting the normal development of white matter in the brain.

Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen, who attended Fort Morgan High School and Colorado State, said the legalization of marijuana for those over 21 puts added pressure on high school and college coaches to discourage use.

Marijuana is on the NCAA’s list of banned substances.

“It could make coaches worry,” Dreessen said. “That’s one of the deterrents to keep you away from doing something like that — the fact that it’s illegal. Now you’re talking about strictly the self-discipline of athletes to not smoke or using any drug, because it’s not helpful to me as an athlete.

“It used to be: a) it was illegal, and b) it’s bad for you as an athlete. Now, it’s just bad for you as an athlete.”

Logan said he believes kids still follow the lead of high-profile athletes, and worries that marijuana use by professional athletes will influence high school students. And, high school athletes don’t have to worry about being tested for drugs.

“When you stop and think about it, these are 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids that are really impressionable,” Logan said. “And what they learn now in terms of right and wrong and making decisions that have consequences will guide them for the rest of their lives.

“Listen, kids are different today than 20 years ago, but there are also similarities, and one of the similarities through my entire coaching career is that high school kids, especially high school football players, watch college football and they watch the NFL and they try to emulate that. And whether we are talking about marijuana use, or excessive celebration, or demeaning opponents — that’s the world that some players live in.”

Patrick Saunders: or

Staff writer Benjamin Hochman contributed to this report.

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