Should NFL Legalize Marijuana for Players?

While the debate of legalizing marijuana has been ongoing for years within the United States, the pros and cons of the drug is currently being proposed to be formally studied by the NFL. According to sources, the NFLPA has been offered to guide the NFL into exploration into how medical marijuana can be used as an ultimate benefit for the sport.

Per Mark Maske of The Washington Post, the NFL actually went on to make the first move, sending a letter out to the NFLPA to work together to use marijuana as a injury rehabilitation tool to current NFL players.

While the NFLPA has yet to reply to the request of the NFL, I don’t see a reason in which the players association would not comply. For years, the NFLPA has been looking into how medical marijuana can be used as a tool to its players, but the NFL has consistently shut the idea down. In fact, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even went on record in April to call the drug “addictive” and “unhealthy”.

While both sides seem open to exploring the potential use of medical marijuana, they should also be advised to tread carefully. While the use of medical marijuana is viewed as a preferred pain relief outlet, there will be more than a handful of barriers to overcome to ensure it’s being monitored correctly by specialists.

In my opinion, why wouldn’t you allow for medical marijuana to be used by NFL players? For one, according to Sports Illustrated, the NFL spends about $13 million a year within its drug program. With 15,000+ urine tests provided among the league, a change in how the league views marijuana could result in a needed decrease of spending that the NFL is currently forced to oversee.

Speaking of money, while the NFL has continued to research head trauma, the problem involving concussions is still a growing pain among the league. In all fairness, the league has acknowledged how severe head trauma is to the players. To put the money where their mouths are, the NFL went out of their way to spend over $100 million in 2016 in order to enhance their studies on concussions.

While the effort is genuine, very small strides are being made to resolve this ongoing issue. In all actuality, the issue of concussions will likely be ongoing for decades to come. With that being said, wouldn’t it make sense to allow players to heal how they see fit?

It should also be noted that plenty of current and past elite players in the league have smoked marijuana within their free time (for both medical and recreational purposes), and it has very rarely had any effect on their performances. Take a peek at ex-Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, who was forced to miss the entire 2006 NFL season due to his violation of the NFL substance abuse policy.

While it was his fourth occasion of being found guilty with marijuana in an illegal setting, Williams would have never been suspended by the NFL if the proper studies were done almost a decade ago.

Other current athletes such as Von Miller, Le’Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant have also served their time for the use of marijuana, and it’s ultimately hurting the league more than anything else. With star players serving time instead of doing their jobs, don’t NFL fans start to lose interest in watching their teams?

One player that has called for the legalization of medical marijuana within the NFL is Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan. The 28-year old had this to say on the topic:

“I’m concerned about my health. I’m going on year seven playing in the NFL, and I think we need to know what the options are when it comes to taking care of our bodies,” said Morgan.

If the NFL continues to elect to discourage medical marijuana from its players, what would be the alternative? A common painkiller known to the league happens to be opioid,  which one of the more addictive uses of pain relief within the country. According to a 2011 study within the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, over half of NFL players admitted to using narcotic painkillers at one point in their careers, and 71% ended up abusing those painkillers.

While medical marijuana isn’t the only solution for an NFL player, the option should be there for all players.

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