When medical marijuana was legalized in Maryland, Baltimore Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe didn’t think much of it. He was a rule follower focused on a future in football, so anything related to drug use was the furthest thing from his mind.
However, after years of injuries, surgeries, and head trauma - all of which led to things like 10-year prescriptions for Celebrex and weekly injections of Toradol - the idea of a pain management drug without the side effects or addictive properties of opioid painkillers was tempting. Was it really possible that marijuana could provide similar relief without the gastric distress or foggy high of opiates?
When asked about marijuana in an interview with ESPN, he says that for years he “never considered having anything to do with it. I just thought it was dangerous.” It wasn’t only the fear of drug addiction that kept him away, but also the NFL. “I was always afraid of failing the test, tarnishing my name. A failed test is a huge hit on your character in the NFL world.”
Monroe had spent the majority of his life thinking marijuana was just as dangerous as every other drug out there. With a mother addicted to crack cocaine, it’s understandable why he was adamant about staying away from any illegal substances. “Drugs were huge in the community where I grew up,” Monroe said. “People using them, people selling them, people being arrested for them because they were associated with them. All sorts of drugs came through my house, and I saw some things I’ll never forget. It was all right in front of me, and I became averse to them because I saw how damaging they were.”
It wasn’t until he watched a documentary about parents who used pot to treat their children’s illnesses that Monroe began to see the reality of the medicinal benefits. The neuroprotective qualities of CBD oil was one of the biggest appeals, since head trauma is so prevalent and known for being poorly handled in football.
He decided to get involved in marijuana advocacy after meeting Illinois-based Pete Kadens, partner of a cultivation and distribution company called Green Thumb Industries. He decided to invest in the company, making him the first active NFL player to advocate for medical marijuana.
Monroe didn’t stop there. He also donated to a group called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, bought a service dog for retired NFL player and marijuana advocate Brian Schaefering, and fulfilled the fundraising goal of a Johns Hopkins study on players who use marijuana. Three months after going public with his activism and charitable donations, Monroe was cut from the Ravens.
After the cut, he started getting offers from other teams who wanted to bring him on but for the first time, found himself reconsidering his future in football. “I was looking for a reason to play when I knew I shouldn’t. I was trying to legitimize stepping back on the field.” Instead, Monroe chose to retire, citing concerns over head trauma, and began to pursue his activism even further.“I will do everything I can to ensure the generations of NFL players after me won’t have to resort to harmful and addictive opioids as their only option for pain management.” Eugene Monroe has chosen to take the high road, and if the NFL ever allows room for medical marijuana, the players of the future will likely have him to thank.