No Grams for the LA Rams
On November 8th, citizens of California voted overwhelmingly to approve the recreational use of marijuana in their state. Beginning in 2018, when the Adult Use of Marijuana Act takes effect, anyone over the age of 21 in California can legally smoke marijuana for recreational purposes. Well, almost anyone. California is home to 4 NFL teams: Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Charges, San Francisco 49ers, and the Oakland Raiders, but professional football players for those teams are still banned from using pot for recreational or medicinal use per NFL policies, despite increasingly widespread acceptance of the plant as a safer solution to pain management and recovery than opioids. Sounds like they won’t be changing their name to the Los Angeles Grams anytime soon.
This doesn’t mean that players aren’t smoking weed. It’s a little difficult to claim it’s not happening when guys are arrested for suspicion of possession, crushing joints when the police come around, or dealing with 10-game suspensions for using anti-inflammatory CBD oils. CBD helps treat Crohn’s Disease, which is as what Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Seantrel Hendersen, uses it for. Unfortunately, that’s a big no-no according to the NFL. Because it is his second violation this year, Henderson must deal with a 10-game suspension without pay, after already sitting through a four-game suspension earlier this season. Should be fail one more drug test, he will be banned from the league for life, barring a successful attempt at reinstatement down the line. Marijuana is the most commonly recommended treatment for Crohn’s pain management, and yet the NFL will not make an exception, for any player, for any condition. If only it were Adderall.
One of the biggest no-brainers as to why football players deserve to use medical marijuana is the anti-inflammatory properties in cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has neuroprotective elements that protect the brain from trauma, something the NFL knows all about since they’re stuck defending 271 concussions endured by players in 2015 alone. Rams running back Tre Mason is among those suspected to have endured brain damage from repeated concussions, which his mother claims have given him the mind of a 10-year-old boy. Last season, Rams quarterback Case Keenum was given the go-ahead to keep playing after a blow to the head had him wobbling to get up. He was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, showing just how poorly the injury was handled by the officials who were supposed to protect him.
With all the medical advancements that exist in 2016, it seems reasonable to expect sports leagues to have preventative measures in place for injuries that can lead to something as serious as permanent brain damage. CBD oil has helped patients suffering from strokes, seizures, and epilepsy symptoms, which is enough to assume it’s worth more than the sum of its legal standing and social stigma. In the case of the NFL, the neuroprotective benefits provided by a CBD pill taken before a game could offer actual protection against concussions. With a 32% increase in concussions in the 2015 season, you would think they’d have players sacrificing goats if it was shown to prevent head trauma, but apparently, marijuana is still more scandalous than animal sacrifice.
So why doesn’t the NFL just allow it? The main issue is that the NFL Players Association only goes over their rules and regulations once a year, so even if a state votes that it’s cool to have recreational pot, as is the case in California, the association is not under any obligation to honor those laws until they get around to it. The good news is that last month, the Players Association agreed to put a committee in place to study the effects of marijuana on players’ health. The plan is to use science and medical experts to gather information and make some sort of decision on whether exceptions can be made for players who use it for medicinal purposes. If it’s true that they’re sticking to measurable scientific data to come to a decision, the outcome will likely be in favor of marijuana. Until then, no grams for the Rams.