The legality of drugs has always been a conflict of both opinion and fact, and they usually tend to differ among parties. Now that more than half of U.S. states allow for medical marijuana usage-eight recreational- some argue that marijuana is an ethically acceptable treatment. America’s most watched and popular sport however, upholds a different policy banning the use of marijuana.

The NFL allows players to take painkilling drugs on the sidelines and even get them injected during the game, yet it does not allow players to be treated with marijuana. Due to fear of being targeted by the league and/or punished from teams, only one current player has spoken for the league to reform their cannabis policy; Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan. Morgan mentions CNN documentary ‘Weed’ as first enlightening him on the potential medical benefits of cannabis, and believes the NFL should look into the use of the drug if it wants to stand by it’s claim to care for players’ health and well-being.

Morgan and eight former players co-signed a letter with Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, asking for the league to re-evaluate its current policy. The letter says, “Cannabis deserves the serious attention of your medical staff as a viable pain management alternative and potential neuroprotectant.”

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who retired this summer after seven seasons in the NFL, said,”It’s the responsibility of the medical professionals of the NFL to take this issue on and do something to potentially help players safety and help with their long-term safety, ”
Monroe uses cannabidiol oil derived from marijuana’s cousin, hemp. The oil contains CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical in marijuana, which is thought to have neuroprotective qualities, potentially heading off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Monroe also has a medical marijuana prescription to deal with the pain from his years of playing.

The players believe cannabis can potentially serve as an alternative for the opioid epidemic that dominates both the NFL and the country. According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, over half of all retired NFL players used narcotic painkillers during their careers, and 71% of those ended up abusing those painkillers. One in seven of those players continues to have dependency issues after playing.

Monroe states, “We know cannabis isn’t 100% safe, but the meds that doctors administer to players every week is killing people across the country. Cannabis should be explored.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that NFL doctors were looking into the benefits of marijuana usage, but that for now the policy will remain as is. The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Player’s Association and the owners includes the ban of marijuana. Both Morgan and Monroe are working with the NFL Players Association to form a pain management committee to look at all alternative pain therapies, including marijuana. Players’ Union spokesman George Atallah commented,” Our guys are the ones feeling the pain. And our members have told us this is an important space to look at. That’s why we’re taking the initiative to do it.” Atallah believes the committee can help determine the medical benefits of marijuana as a therapeutic treatment for players.

Morgan and Monroe are optimistic that more players will join them in their push for the league and Players’ Union to reach a new consensus.

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