There is significant belief that the NFL is interested in getting out of the marijuana-policing game, something that will surely be addressed with the NFLPA during the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negation period. There was potentially a key step in that direction announced yesterday.
As part of the establishment of a new Joint Pain Management Committee that will include medical experts appointed by both the league and the union, they will among other things “conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies”. One of those alternative therapies is the use of marijuana for pain management, which, frankly, many players already do without getting caught.
To be clear, the league’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, did specifically acknowledge that the committee will “look at marijuana” as one of the many possibilities that they will explore, but you can imagine that it is going to be among the favorites, especially with the NFLPA involved.
You might recall that former Baltimore Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe elected to retire in large part to become an advocate for the medical use of marijuana as a pain management tool. He wrote a thought-out piece for the Players’ Tribune explaining why it would be a viable alternative to the potentially harmful painkillers that many players have to live by just the do their jobs.
Of course, the usage of marijuana for medical purposes is a big difference from using it recreationally, but for professional athletes who take a beating for a living, it doesn’t seem like the distinction is very important. I’m sure they won’t have much difficulty obtaining authorization to use medical marijuana, and if they are stupid enough to fail to do so, then, well, maybe they deserve whatever punishment they would still receive.
The complication is that there are still a number of teams who are based in states that have yet to approve any type of usage of marijuana, medically or otherwise, though that landscape seems to shrink on a yearly basis.
Likely, any significant changes of this nature would still have to be worked out in the CBA, but putting the wheels in motion now is the right course of action. And if the league is really looking to get out (as much as they can) from policing players’ usage of marijuana, then this is a good first step.