The Dallas Cowboys’ owner raised the topic of lifting the NFL’s ban on marijuana use at a recent owner’s meeting in Arizona.
Support for lifting the National Football League’s ban on marijuana continues to grow, as the owner of the league’s most valuable team has come out in favor. At a recent owner’s meeting in Arizona, Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said that the league should “drop its prohibition on marijuana use,” according to Pro Football Talks Mike Florio.
Former and current league players have been increasingly resistant to the league’s ban, arguing that marijuana is a safe alternative to the opiate prescriptions players are regularly taking to manage pain. Players average “six to seven pain pills or injections a week… over the course of a typical NFL season,” according to documents obtained earlier this year by The Washington Post. A survey of 226 NFL players conducted by ESPN last November found that 61 percent believe permitting the use of marijuana would allow players to effectively manage pain without taking as many painkiller medications.
Opioid painkillers, like the ones prescribed in bulk to NFL players, carry a serious risk of abuse, dependency and fatal overdose. They killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015. A study conducted earlier this year by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine found that retired NFL players, due to overuse of opioids while in their active careers, misuse opioid pain medications at a rate more than four times that of the general population.
Studies have shown marijuana to effectively reduce pain and according to the DEA, no death from a marijuana overdose has ever been reported. Retired players Jake Plummer and Eugene Monroe are working with academic researchers at John Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania to examine cannabis’ efficacy for pain management.
There’s also evidence that a cannabinoid found in marijuana – cannabidiol (CBD) — provides neuroprotective effects to the brain, helping recovery following concussions and reducing damage caused by repeated blows to the head. Ninety-six percent of NFL players have been found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain degenerative disease caused by concussions, and research indicates that cannabinoids reduce the risk of permanent brain cell damage. A study involving 30 former NFL players to examine cannabis’ effects on pain and concussion symptoms is currently underway. KannalifeTM Sciences, a Medical Marijuana, Inc. portfolio company, holds a license to develop cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical treatments for CTE and is currently conducting its own independent research into cannabis’ potential therapeutic application for concussion-related brain damage.
The NFL’s position on marijuana falls under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) and the team owners. Making the change would require that the players make one or more concessions in exchange. The current agreement, which expires in 2020, requires players that test positive for marijuana to enter a substance abuse program, while subsequent violations call for fines, suspensions and league banishment.
Representatives from the NFLPL are hoping to amend the collective bargaining agreement to loosen the rules regarding cannabis use. Former professional running back Ricky Williams has said that as many as 70 percent of NFL players use marijuana regardless of the ban. The NFL has said it would consider revisiting its marijuana stance, but it requires the advisement of “science and medical experts” before doing so.