With five more teams now based in states that have legalized marijuana, the NFL Players Association wants to actively research the cannabis plant in hopes of finding its true medicinal benefit for those players wishing to use it as an alternative to prescription painkillers.
George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs, recently told the Washington Post that the union was forming a pain management committee for players in the NFL in hopes of determining whether medical marijuana was an effective treatment. However, this does not mean the NFL is on the verge of amending its anti-pot policy.
“Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” Atallah said. “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains.
“We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on,” he added.
As of Tuesday, there are 29 states that have legalized the leaf for medicinal purposes, while another eight states have pushed through initiatives that make it legal in a manner similar to alcohol. The NFL resides in 14 of those jurisdictions, yet league rules make the use of marijuana, even if only for medical reasons, an offense worth of disciplinary action.
Over the past couple of years, a number of former NFL players have come forward to discuss how medical marijuana saved them from the grips of opioid addiction. Some of these guys, including ex-Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, have gone full-blown cannabis advocate and are now aggressively fighting to get the league to change its drug policy.
But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league’s medical advisors and the NFLPA would have to provide the powers that be with a recommendation before it could even begin to consider eliminating marijuana from its list of banned substances.
“We continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries,” McCarthy said. “However, medical experts have not recommended making a change or revisiting our collectively-bargained policy and approach related to marijuana, and our position on its use remains consistent with federal law and workplace policies across the country. If these medical experts change their view, then this is an area that we would explore.”
A recent ESPN poll that 71 percent of the players in the NFL believe marijuana should be made legal all across the nation. The survey also uncovered a troubling statistic -- 46 percent of NFL players are likely using dangerous prescription narcotics on a daily basis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid medications, such as the ones commonly used throughout the NFL, killed more than 165,000 people from 1999 to 2014.
Still, to this day, marijuana has not caused a single death.