It’s no secret that the NFL’s stance on marijuana is outdated and void of fact-based evidence. Despite the many medical benefits that marijuana could offer NFL players who continue to take a beating on the field, the Player’s Association continues to ban it year after year with no medical exceptions, a dubious rule that has led to countless fines and suspensions brought upon otherwise productive players. If Seantrel Henderson can’t even take a hit to relieve some of his Crohn’s pain, it’s unlikely this policy will soften up anytime soon.
Unfortunately, this is something that is expected to only get worse under the Trump administration. In a recent article by Mike Freeman in the Bleacher Report, he mentions an NFL agent warning his players to stay away from weed - not just for fear of repercussions from the NFL, but for fear of repercussions from the government, too. If the administration really does plan on coming down hard on marijuana, agents fear their high-profile celebrity players will be made an example of if they’re caught, and the example will involve imprisonment.
The concerns don’t just come out of thin air. Attorney General Jeff Sessions blames higher THC levels on an increase in violence, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer has included marijuana as part of the opioid addiction crisis, as if the plant couldn’t possibly be part of the solution to painkiller addiction rather than the problem. The good thing is that President Trump has yet to make a statement on marijuana himself, but it’s unlikely it differ from Spicer or Sessions.
If the administration wants to cut down on opiate use, the NFL is the first place it should look. It’s not uncommon for players to get decade-long prescriptions to opiate-based painkillers to deal with injuries endured on the field, and it’s also not uncommon for players to get fined or suspended for smoking pot, even if it’s for pain relief.
Sessions focuses on the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) component of pot, the chemical that makes users feel high. What he fails to mention is CBD (cannabidiol), the other chemical that makes up marijuana that has so few psychoactive effects, it’s not even considered marijuana on its own. CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory that offers a gentler form of relief than opiates, without the damaging side effects or risk of addiction. Perhaps the biggest benefit of CBD is its neuroprotective properties, which offer protection from traumatic brain injury. The NFL reported 244 concussions that were endured over the 2016 season, a number that fortunately went down from 275 in 2015, but is still too high for anyone’s comfort.There are real solutions to the opioid and concussion epidemic plaguing the NFL, but if commissioners, representatives, and now government officials have no interest in the fact-based evidence, it could be years before players really have the chance to try it out.