There has been a lot of controversy generated lately over the NFL’s policy on marijuana and players using it for pain management and treating other ailments. The League currently bans all use of cannabis, no matter what the reason.
But the journey to changing how the NFL treats marijuana may have begun as the union that represents the players has formed a pain management committee to look into why players use marijuana and what effects it has.
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” said NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. “I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”
I’m not sure what it would matter if players used marijuana recreationally or medically, but these things usually move at a glacial pace, so one step at a time. Smith said pain and depression may be valid reasons for a player to use marijuana and punishing those players for making that choice may not be the best way to help them.
Smith also acknowledged that it wasn’t only the NFL that has created the current policy on marijuana; it was made in conjunction with the players union. “This isn’t just the NFL’s policy,” he said. “This is a collectively bargained policy with the NFL Players Association. The program is administered by jointly appointed independent medical advisors to the league and the NFLPA who are constantly reviewing and relying on the most current research and scientific data. We continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries. 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.”
I’m not sure how much of a medical expert someone can be if they are not up-to-date on the latest research and studies on the effectiveness of cannabis, especially when it comes to pain management. If they are still recommending dangerous and addictive pain killers over cannabis then it may be time to consult some new experts.
In any case, don’t expect players in the NFL to be allowed to use marijuana for medical reasons any time soon. The current contract between the NFL and the union is set to end in 2020, so nothing may happen until then. Meanwhile, many players have to suffer from either not being able to choose cannabis over pills with horrible side effects or being punished for that choice.