Why the NFL should legalize cannabis for medical use and ban opioids

Robert Nicholson III
Aug 30 · 6 min read
Minnesota Vikings practice
Minnesota Vikings practice
Photo by Eternal Seconds on Unsplash

The National Football League is arguably one of the most dangerous and entertaining sports leagues in the United States. Imagine men weighing anywhere between 210lbs (95.2544kg) to over 300lbs (136.078), that could run a 40-yard dash between 4.2 to 5.2 seconds crashing into you on almost every play.

To get an idea of the type of hits NFL players experience, watch this short Sports Science video below featuring NFL Hall of Fame Linebacker Ray Lewis.

rockboy1138 YouTube. Ray Lewis “Block and Tackle” segment.

As you can see, one hit from a 260lbs (117.934kg) man running towards a moving target at 12 miles per hour could generate a little over a ton of force on the human body.

Because professional football players consistently take punishing blows, many of them experience a variety of injuries. A study reported by CNN.com shows that 214 players were diagnosed with a concussion during the 2018 NFL season.

This study doesn’t include other serious injuries such as broken bones, muscle tears, dislocated joints, and other season or career ending injuries.

Over the years, NFL teams have allowed their training staffs to pass around opioids to players whenever they’re were hurt. Ex-Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson told ESPN.com the staff was giving away painkillers like candy to players.

Retired Miami Dolphin Larry Chester confessed the way he dealt with chronic pain was by “eating opioids.” Chester’s consumption of opioids made him aggressive towards his family. However, Chester gives credit to the use of CBD for saving his life.

Over the years, opioid painkillers have been presenting problems on and off the field for NFL players. The type of issues players would encounter were: addiction, aggression, liver damage, and even death.

In fact, 71% of NFL players who used opioids admitted to misusing them.

Opioids have been causing problems outside the NFL as well. According to stats found on MoveFowardpt.com (An American Physical Theorpy website), between the years 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people in America died from an overdose of prescribed painkilling opioids. In 2017, prescribed opioid overdose was responsible for 35% of the opioid deaths in America.

With opioid pain medication causing issues in one of America’s most popular sports leagues and in its communities, why is it legal for public consumption, but cannabis is still considered an illegal substance?

Players Call an Audible on Opioids in Favor of Cannabis

In recent years there have been a number of NFL players who have faced suspension and steep fines due to cannabis use. All while team trainers were dealing out opioids like candy on Halloween.

According to a USA Today article, former Tight End Martellus Bennett estimated that 89% of the players around the league use cannabis. This number isn’t a solid fact, but it gives you an idea of the volume of professional football players who consume cannabis.

Below is a short debate about Martellus Bennett’s comments about marijuana use in the NFL.

ESPN YouTube

Recently, former New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski has announced his partnership with Abacus Health Products (CBDMEDIC). Over his 9 year career in the NFL, “Gronk” has suffered a number of injuries. Gronkowski credits the use of CBD products to his recovery, which is why he is an advocate for the NFL to reconsider its drug policy.

Dealing with those injuries played a part in the 4-time all-pro and 3-time Super Bowl Champion to early retirement at the age of 29. The earlier mentioned Calvin Johnson also retired early in his career. So has the recent ex-Indianapolis Colts Starting Quarterback Andrew Luck.

Another notable player that has entered the fight for legalizing cannabis is former Baltimore Raven Eugene Monroe (Green Thumb Industries). According to Forbes.com, Monroe is the first active NFL player to publicly announce that he uses cannabis in 2016. Because of this bold action, the Ravens eliminated his contract.

Although Monroe no longer has a contract with the Ravens, he is more active than ever. Serving on the Board of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation and HealthyUNow and supports the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Athletes for Care. His mission is to “get the NFL to accept cannabinoids as a viable option for pain management.”

Other Former NFL Players who are involved with supporting the use of cannabis are

You can read more about their stories in the Forbes article below.

The NFL Should Learn a Lesson from Our Neighbors Up North

In late 2018, Canada legalized marijuana for consumption nationwide. Adults 19 years old and over can buy, sell, possess or grow marijuana (18 years old and up in Quebec and Alberta). But, they cannot travel in and out of Canada with it.

Out of all the American sports leagues, the National Hockey League has the most Canadian representation. According to another article on Forbes.com, the NHL also has the most relaxed marijuana drug enforcement policy out of every American professional league or assocation.

“When asked recently how Canadian legalization would affect NHL policy, the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner told the Associated Press that it would not. That’s good news because, according to a report by Civilized, the NHL doesn’t classify cannabis as a banned substance.”Ben Curren Contributor to Forbes.com and covers the legal cannabis industry

Just like the other major American sports organizations, the NHL regularly tests the players for illegal substances. However, when a player is busted with cannabis in his system, they write it down as a statistic or case study.

No penalties or suspensions.

This doesn’t mean that the NHL is for the use of cannabis. They will crack down on a player if he shows signs of addiction or abuse.

This policy is something the National Football League and the United States government should consider. More athletes in various professional sports are showing their support for legal cannabis use.

(List provided by MensJournal.com)

  • Cliff Robinson (Former NBA All-Star)
  • Jake Plumber (Former NFL Quarterback)
  • Kyle Turley (Former NFL Offensive Lineman)
  • Nate Jackson (Former NFL Tight End)
  • Jim McMahon (Former NFL Quarterback)
  • Ross Rebagliati (Canadian 1998 Snowboarding Olympic Gold Medalist)
  • Nate Diaz (Mixed Martial Arts Champion)
  • Ronda Rousey (Mixed Martial Arts and WWE Women’s Champion)
  • Kyle Kingsbury (Mixed Martial Arts Heavyweight Fighter)
  • Floyd Landis (Bicyclist, Competed in the Tour de France)
  • Avery Collins (Colorado Pro Ultramarathoner)
  • Tanner Hall (Freestyle Skier)
  • Riley Cote (Former NHL Enforcer)
  • Bill Walton (Former NBA Center)
  • Jay Williams (Former NBA Point Guard)
  • Rob Van Dam (Pro Wrestling Champion)

There are plenty of studies that would argue against the use of opioids in professional sports and out on the street. Cannabis is by no means the perfect solution to health issues, but it is safer than opioids, tobacco, and alcohol. Yet, those three substances have caused body & mind defects and even death, plus they’re legal to consume.

You would have to be naive to think the National Football League or the U.S. government doesn’t know that the proper use of cannabis provides more health benefits than most man-made products on the shelf.

The NFL shouldn’t have to consider legalizing cannabis high in THC content, unless a doctor recommends it. However, if you’re own athletes are walking, talking, and living proof of the health benefits of cannabis, why wouldn’t you want to at least consider making CBD acceptible for league consumption?

I understand big corporations are slower in making decisions. Plus, there isn’t a lot of research on all of the benefits and liabilities of using cannabis. But there is enough evidence and studies to consider making cannabis legal over opioid pain medications.

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Robert Nicholson III

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I just love to read and write. I use Medium to express my thoughts about various topics.

The Weed Bible

Articles, opinion pieces, rants, and more stories about marijuana, hemp, and CBD.

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