Sports Gambling or Marijuana, Which Will be Nationally Legalized First

Sports gambling and marijuana are both in demand in the United States but both are also illegal nationally. The courts and high profile businesses like the NFL are facing regular pressure from lawsuits trying to push for national legalization. Which do you think will happen first, national legalization of cannabis or professional sports betting?

The NFL handles a variety of legal issues rather poorly, and two that I have found particularly problematic by the NFL are marijuana and sports gambling. Both have been in the news quite a bit in recent years, and both seem to be gaining public support.

Last week, an NFL writer posed an interesting question. He asked which would be legalized first, marijuana or sports betting. I’m not surprised by the results of his poll, with sports betting getting 55 percent of the vote.

The poll question came up in part because of the United States’ Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case involving a New Jersey sports gambling law. Sports gambling is generally illegal under a law called PASPA. It grandfathered in some states, including Nevada, but has otherwise kept sports gambling illegal in most states. The court will potentially decide whether or not PASPA violates the Tenth Amendment, which protects state rights.

The Court will hear the case either this fall or early next spring. The four major sports and the NCAA are pushing for the Court to uphold the law, but the fact that the Court is even willing to hear the case is kind of a big deal.

Given the current political environment, I’m inclined to think sports betting will be legalized before marijuana. Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana in some form or fashion, and another 21 states have legalized medical marijuana in some fashion. The momentum is there, but I am curious to see how the federal government approaches it. Under President Obama, they still left marijuana categorized as a Level I drug, but they cut back funding on the DEA going after state’s choosing to loosen the rules. The new attorney general wanted to go after it more, but the budget was not provided to do that, so we’ll see what comes of it. While there is a state’s rights argument to be made, I doubt we see any improvement in how the federal government is willing to approach it anytime soon.

Leaders of the push to legalize sports betting want to get it legalized so as to bring it out of the darkness. A vast majority of money bet on sports happens on the black market, and legalizing it could bring a lot of that under regulation and taxation.

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