As more states legalize marijuana, NFLPA to study potential as a pain-management tool
In the aftermath of a new set of states legalizing marijuana use in the national elections, the NFL Players Association said Wednesday it is actively studying the possibility of allowing players to use marijuana as a pain-management tool.
The union is forming an NFL players pain management committee that will study players’ use of marijuana as a pain-management mechanism, among other things, though the union has not yet determined if an adjustment to the sport’s ban on marijuana use is warranted.
“Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains.
“We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”
A growing push from players within the sport, plus an ongoing national medical conversation over the benefits of marijuana and the dangers of opiate-based painkillers, have increased scrutiny on the league’s rules that ban the drug. This also comes as voters in California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use Tuesday, joining four other states and Washington, D.C., in enacting similar laws. Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voters legalized medical marijuana use, bringing the total of states with such measures to more than two dozen.
But marijuana use remains prohibited under the drug policy collectively bargained between the NFL and the NFLPA, and both parties would need to agree to any changes to that policy. Players are tested for marijuana and can be fined or suspended without pay for positive or missed tests.
The union’s contemplation of approving marijuana as a pain-management mechanism for players had begun before Tuesday’s voting.
Some players, including former Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, argue that marijuana is safer than the painkillers commonly used by players and its use should be permitted by the sport for pain-management purposes.
“To this point, I understand why no one but me as an active player has said anything about it,” Monroe said in an interview with the Post earlier this year prior to his retirement. “It’s a banned substance in our league. Speaking about it can honestly ruin someone’s career if the wrong team gets wind of it and has adverse opinions on it. But my health is more important than the opinion of someone who could be my employer now or my future employer. . . .
“There’s enough anecdotal evidence already to say, ‘Hey listen, we know it’s not toxic. We know it’s safer than what we’re already doing.’ ”
Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press