NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he’s open to a softer stance on players who use cannabis and, for a moment, both players and advocates got ready to celebrate. Then Goodell went and rained on this parade in the very same interview. He said that he believes marijuana is dangerous and made it clear that he didn’t even really understand what the effects of marijuana are.
“It does have addictive nature,”he told ESPN’s “Mike & Mike.” “Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say,” he added.
It sounds more like he’s talking about tobacco, a seriously harmful product that’s proven to cause a myriad of dangerous health problems and be as addictive as heroin, than about cannabis, a non-addictive drug which is used for medical treatment in over half the country and often administered without smoking. Tobacco is, of course, allowed in the NFL drug policy while marijuana use can result in a ten game suspension.
The comments from Goodell came after the NFL Players Association announced it will propose changes to league’s drug use policies, including the limit of 35 nanograms per milliliter of tetrahydrocannabinol in urine samples, as reported by The Denver Post.
The argument isn’t just that since smoking marijuana is no big deal (60% of Americans think it should be legal, according to a recent Gallup Poll), the penalties should not be so harsh for players who test positive for it. NFL players are subject to many ailments, including traumatic brain injury and chronic pain, which require extensive pharmaceutical treatment.
Cannabis (both THC and the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD) provides important alternatives to these treatments, which can save players from complications and addictions associated with prescription drugs such as opioids. NFL players are four times as likely to develop an opioid addiction as the general public, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Even if Goodell and the league do become more sympathetic to the plight of medical marijuana patients in the league, the cannabis ban likely won’t go away overnight. George Atallah, assistant executive director at the NFLPA, told the Post that the union isn’t even necessarily looking to cross cannabis of the list of banned substances, only that they “want to take a less punitive approach to marijuana.”
Goodell, meanwhile, said that he’s open to changing the league’s weed policy, but it depends on his advisors, and so far, incredibly, he can’t find a single advisor who thinks it would be good for player health to have this organic alternative to pharmaceutical opioids.
“We look at it from a medical standpoint,” the commissioner told ESPN. “So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL… To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.”
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