For the past few years, ex-NFL players have been boasting about the role marijuana could play in helping to keep players healthy. Specifically, its ability to help with brain injuries, chronic pain and psychological disorders has been considered extremely valuable for helping players to cope with the job. Unfortunately, the league has the strictest rules regarding marijuana consumption and the harshest punishment. Players could be suspended for entire seasons or even banned indefinitely. Such is the case with Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory. While substance abuse can be a serious issue, marijuana is known to be healthier than alcohol and cigarettes as well as legal for medicinal purposes in 28 states and recreational purposes in 8 states. The punishment seems to greatly outweigh the crime.
The Necessity for Marijuana Reform in the NFL
Owner of the Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones and 31 other team owners have begun discussions about changing the way marijuana is handled. The owners are looking to lift the ban on marijuana although they would have to do this in agreement with the NFL Players Association. The players agree with the owners on the subject, although they believe testing should continue in order to help any players with extensive substance abuse issues which would be judged by the level of marijuana found in the blood stream. In general though, both players and owners agree that marijuana reform is needed within the league.
Jones’ Take on Lifting Marijuana Restrictions
The owners discussed marijuana within the NFL at an owners meeting in Arizona last week. Jerry Jones was the one to raise the issue. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, “Jones also raised the question of the NFL’s position on marijuana. Jones, per a source who heard the comments, wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use. Jones was reminded that the issue falls under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition.”
Curbing Opioid Addiction with Marijuana
The NFL union’s pain management committee have been investigating the potential use of marijuana for treating players with the variety of injuries they commonly incur. At present, players are often prescribed prescription opioids which are highly addictive and very dangerous. It is easy to acclimate to the dose and keep going up to a higher one which can often lead to an accidental overdose. The side effects and withdrawals are extremely severe and thousands of people die a year from prescription opioid use. It has been proven however that in states that have an active medical marijuana program, opioid use, addiction and death rates have decreased, showing that medical marijuana has been an effective treatment that can replace the need for opioids.
A lot of steps would need to follow if the NFL were going to change its policies regarding marijuana use. Commissioner Roger Goodell usually mentions needing to hear from medical experts and there is the issue of federal law, which still prohibits marijuana from being used. In any case, progress starts with a discussion and these primary talks will no doubt get the ball rolling towards a lift in prohibition.