Baltimore Raven’s NFL player Eugene Monroe has opened up the door for the league to look into medical marijuana as a treatment option for injured players. In May, Monroe donated $80,000 towards medical marijuana research in treating the kinds of injuries commonly obtained by NFL players. This move has inspired Jeff Miller, the league’s senior vice president of health and safety, and Russell Lonser, who is part of the league’s head, neck and spine committee, to talk with the researchers who are being funded by Monroe. Although they are not officially endorsing Monroe’s position, the league officials conference called with researchers to learn more about the research.
The NFL’s Current Stance on Marijuana
The league’s official stance on marijuana is that it is banned completely. Many ex-players have been pushing for the ban to be lifted or at least reviewed. The current pain killer medications prescribed can have harmful side effects on players as well as being highly addictive and often not working at all to treat the symptoms experienced by ex-players. Medical marijuana has been legalized in 24 states so far with more states legalizing marijuana every year. At this point in time, recreational use is legal in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and D.C., yet marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug and is illegal on a federal level.
How Re-Scheduling Could Influence the NFL
The current Schedule I classification means that on a federal level, marijuana is considered to be one of the most dangerous, high risk drugs, in the same category as heroin, and having no medical purpose. The scheduling is very out of date and the DEA has stated that they will review its position on marijuana at some point in the middle of 2016. It’s possible that once the DEA reschedules or de-schedules marijuana, organizations may be more inclined to consider marijuana for its medicinal purposes. With half of the country benefitting from the medicinal value of marijuana, it seems only fair that NFL players are allowed the same treatment.
“Safer Than What We’re Doing Already”
Monroe explained, “To this point, I understand why no one but me as an active player has said anything about it. It’s a banned substance in our league. Speaking about it can honestly ruin someone’s career if the wrong team gets wind of it, and has adverse opinions on it. But my health is more important than the opinion of someone who could be my employer now or my future employer. There’s enough anecdotal evidence already to say, ‘Hey listen, we know it’s not toxic. We know it’s safer than what we’re already doing.’”
The research currently being sponsored by Monroe focuses on sports-related injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and pain. Help in treating the suffering experienced by players and ex-players could be a life changing event. As the research continues and league officials remain open to discussing the results with researchers, hope may be coming soon to NFL players and ex-players across the country.