The NFL is changing a few rules since their Annual League Meeting in Phoenix this March, like no more leaping field goal blocks, allowing ejections for field goal hits, and (although this might be a Hail Mary pass) possibly decriminalizing pot use within the league.
Right now, the NFL has the strictest pot policy in the league, allowing only 35 nanograms per milliliter in a drug test. It used to be only 15 nanograms per milliliter! Compare that to the 50 nanograms per milliliter allowance in the MLB, and you can see why so many players get benched and rehabbed for their use of cannabis. Commissioner Roger Goodell has called marijuana both “unhealthy,” and “addictive.” But over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, powerful prescription painkillers, and sometimes alcohol that players use to manage pain are unhealthy and addictive too.
In a poll conducted throughout March 2017 by Yahoo News and Marist, 72 percent of Americans said alcohol use posed more of a health risk than marijuana use. The same survey found that nearly one in five marijuana users relies on the drug to help manage pain. So why shouldn’t football players enjoy the same health care options?
Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, brought the subject up at the private “owners-only” portion of the event. But even with Jones’ pull, there is no shortage of opposition to marijuana. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is only now saying he’s willing to listen to the league’s medical advisers on the topic of medicinal marijuana, though some speculate it’s a sign that collective bargaining is on the horizon.
The NFL does not release the results of drug tests, so we don’t get to know to know how many active players use marijuana or why they choose to use it. Plus, players who have never violated the league’s drug policy are tested for recreational drugs once annually, sometime between April and August. Speculations are that the
There are, however, some former players who are publicly embracing the plant for one reason or another.
1. Eugene Monroe, the 30-year-old former Baltimore Raven lineman, was the first active player to publicly call on the league to permit medical marijuana. Monroe played football as a way of staying out of the drug game as a youth; now he’s on a crusade to prove that it heals the hurt after a lifetime playing the game. When retiring, he cited that football had taken a physical toll on his body, and possibly brain, with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) having been detected in 90% of former NFL players.
2. Ricky Williams retired from the NFL in 2004 after failing his third NFL-mandated drug test in five seasons. As a player, he chose cannabis over the other drugs prescribed to players in pain or recovering from surgery— Advil, Toradol, and Indocin—and suffered the consequence of going from NFL star running back to “pot head.” Today, Williams is called an “advocate” because the rise of legal medicinal and adult-use marijuana allows him to speak openly at marijuana conventions, including the World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo.
3. Eben Britton, a former NFL offensive lineman, is now a firm advocate for dropping the marijuana prohibition in the league. Britton is one of many retired players who believe in marijuana’s potential benefits in treating players’ pain and symptoms from head injuries. He has also founded Athletes For Care, a nonprofit that helps players transition to retirement, offering support groups and addiction awareness help.
4. Jake Plummer, a quarterback for nine years, has become a vocal proponent of CBD. He now works with Realm of Caring Foundation on the “When the Bright Lights Fade” campaign to raise funds for studies exploring how the use of cannabinoids can treat and prevent CTE and traumatic brain injury symptoms.
5. Ebenezer Ekuban, 40, played defensive end for nine NFL seasons (four of which were with the Broncos) and heard about CBD from his teammate Jake Plummer after surgery on his lower back, knee, shoulder and Achilles’ tendon left him dependent on painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.