Of all the former NFL players that have come out in favor of medical marijuana use in the sport, Jim McMahon is likely one of the most iconic. The former Bears quarterback and two-time Superbowl winning champion appeared in a political ad before the 2016 election in favor of Proposition 205, which would have legalized marijuana in Arizona. Unfortunately voters did not choose to legalize it, but McMahon’s work is just getting started.
In 2011, McMahon joined six other NFL players in a class action lawsuit against the NFL for the league’s negligence and misconduct in handling concussion injuries. Shortly after, 75 more retired NFL players made similar claims, saying the league actively withheld information over decades that could have prevented game-related concussions. In 2012, McMahon was diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia at only 53 years old.
With regards to medical marijuana, McMahon says he uses it to treat the arthritis and chronic pain he’s dealing with as a result of his 14-year NFL career. He’s even referred to it as a “godsend,” saying the 100 Percocet pills he was taking a month wasn’t a sustainable or healthy way to function.
“When I had my first injury, that’s when I used my first painkiller and I was using them daily pretty much the rest of my career,” he said in a Proposition 205 ad. “It takes its toll; taking too many of those things.” Once McMahon retired and moved to Arizona, he got his medical marijuana card. “Someone like me can afford to be a medical marijuana patient, but others aren’t so lucky. Marijuana should be available to all adults who need it.”
Jim McMahon is hardly the only retired player who has admitted to benefiting from marijuana use. Former Bears lineman Eben Britton recently admitted to smoking pot, sometimes even before a game.
“A lot of people say they’re useless when they smoke weed. But hell, I played NFL games, dude. My performances were solid and I felt really good after.” He says he used it to alleviate psychological distress and shoulder pain.
As the benefits of medical marijuana become more well known and accepted in society, many players are either admitting to having used it while employed by the NFL, or admit to using it during retirement to alleviate pain from years of getting beat up on the field.
In the case of Jim McMahon, one of the best reasons for why marijuana should be readily available to current and former players is the concussion epidemic. It’s no secret that concussions are a controversial part of the NFL, with 40% of former players suffering from traumatic brain injuries as a result, McMahon included. The reason marijuana could actually help with this dangerous ordeal is because cannabidiol (CBD), one of the two chemicals that make up marijuana, works as a neuroprotectant that can help prevent injuries to the brain. Something as simple as a drop of CBD oil under the tongue before a game could give players a little extra security in knowing their chances of getting a concussion are reduced. Aside from that, CBD has no psychoactive properties, meaning it won’t actually get anyone high.If the use of marijuana, or even just CBD, will prevent players from dementia, alzheimer’s, or the most-feared chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, what reason is out there that justifies banning its use? The answer to that is still up for debate, but the hope is that with McMahon and other players behind it, pot will become a normalized part of recovery and prevention for players.