NFL players have been talking a lot about the medicinal uses of marijuana in recent years and its ability to manage their pain a lot more effectively than opioids without the addiction or the side effects. Ex-NFL players have spoken up about the need for players to have access to the plant in particular as an alternative to dangerous prescription opioids that kill thousands of people every year. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have been conducting studies to determine the effects of marijuana as a tool for pain management and ex-players have been very vocal about its effectiveness. After much discussion about the issue, the NFL has sent a letter to the NFLPA suggesting that they work together to study the plant and its potential medicinal benefits.
Unifying for the Common Good
The union has also indicated in the past that they were looking into marijuana’s ability to treat acute and chronic pain. Working together with players seems to be the natural next step in exploring the best way to evaluate cannabis and its medical potential. Former NFL players have also been working on supporting studies that would result in the use of medical marijuana for treating the debilitating conditions that they suffer from their time in the sport. Brain injuries are a common injury that result in the need to use heavy opioids and lower the quality of life.
The Potential of Lessening Player Consequences
On the other hand, the union is also looking to review recreational marijuana for players and whether or not there should be lesser punishment for its use. Until now, a positive marijuana test result could lead to heavy disciplinary action including suspension. In 2014, the union decided to make a change, increasing the threshold for what would result in a positive test result. The limit for THC in the system was increased from 15 nanograms of THC per liter of blood or urine to up to 35 nanograms as an acceptable quantity before a positive reading was accepted.
A “Related but Nonetheless Separate Issue”
“How do you make sure that you address any potential addiction issue? Because I’ve read the literature on both sides,” DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director told Washington Post reporters and editors in January. “How do you deal with the fact that some people are using it purely recreationally and pivoting it to … people who are using it medicinally either as a pain eradicator or a stress-coping mechanism? So what we’ve decided to do is, to the best we can, look at it as related but nonetheless separate issues. Do I expect in the near future we are going to be presenting something to our board on the first issue? Yes.”
The attitude change in the NFL reflects the general state of the country at this time as 29 states currently have legalized medical marijuana and 8 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over 21. Even the veteran’s legion is looking towards medical marijuana to treat pain and PTSD. As things move forward, the medicinal benefits become clearer and more people suffering with debilitating conditions across the country can find relief.