Pro Football Group Considers Marijuana as Pain-Management Tool for Players
Coming after a flurry of states voted to legalize marijuana last week, the NFL Players Association is taking steps to study pot as a pain-management alternative. However, changes might be slow in coming.
The NFL Players Association told The Washington Post last week that it plans to form a committee that will consider marijuana as a potential pain-management tool for its players.
“We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players,” said NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs George Atallah to The Post. “And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”
This announcement came one day after voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada joined a handful of other states, including Colorado and Washington, in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Last week’s voting also upped the number of states that now allow the use of medical marijuana to more than two dozen.
“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.”
The NFL drug policy, a joint effort of both the league and the association, currently bans the use of marijuana by its players. Currently, players who test positive for marijuana are referred to substance abuse programs and can also be fined and suspended.
This disciplinary action seems outdated to some, especially in the wake of marijuana legalization. “There is no health and safety reason for marijuana being on the banned list and now the legal rationale has crumbled,” a person on the players’ side of the sport, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Post.
Some NFL team owners, who also wished to remain anonymous, told NFL.com that the NFLPA inquiry is a reaction to the cultural shift. Since pot has been decriminalized in a number of states, there’s a general agreement that the NFL standards concerning the banned drug should be revisited.
Retired NFL players like Eugene Monroe, a former offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, thinks it’s about time. Since March 2016, Monroe has been an outspoken proponent for cannabinoids as an alternative to opioids for treating chronic pain and sports injuries, citing extensive opioid misuse and addiction across his cohort.
While some medical experts say that marijuana is a much safer alternative to opioids, others like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association remain opposed to its legalization.
All that to say, any major changes from the NFLPA on marijuana as a pain-management alternative are likely slow in coming.
“We continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management, and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries,” NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said to USA Today. “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.”