01.25.2017
policy

Players' New Proposal Begs NFL to Allow Recreational Marijuana

By ‘recreational,’ they really mean 'fast track the medical mj, please.'

The NFL Players Association’s executive director, Maurice Smith, said in a press conference on Wednesday that the union will present a proposal to amend the league’s drug policies to allow recreational marijuana use for players. The plan proposes that the league should take a “less punitive” approach to weed.

“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate. I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used,” Smith tells the Washington Post.

The situation is complicated. An approval of this kind of proposal would require agreement from multiple committees, including first, the Players Association itself. If approved there, the proposal would then be presented to the NFL.

Even if the NFL does decide to chill out on harsh punishments for weed, the Players Association will still be facing a lot of grief. That’s partly because there’s just not enough scientific research in the U.S., or within the NFL itself, to provide solid answers that weed can solve any real problems.

Of course, there’s plenty of research that points to marijuana being a great way to manage pain and avoid addictive opioids. Research happening right now (paid for by the NFL) seeks to determine if weed can help the NFL epidemic of CTE—a traumatic brain injury that can cause many problems, including severe depression and catatonia. Still, there aren’t many scientifically established answers for what exactly weed is good for and how it fits into the NFL.

More from Player Association executive director Smith and the Washington Post:

“We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right?” Smith says. “So if I look at this myopically as just a recreational use of marijuana and miss the fact that we might have players suffering from depression, what have I fixed? Worse yet, you may have solved an issue that gets the steady drumbeat in a newspaper but miss an issue like chronic depression . . . where a person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it’s not curing their depression."

According to Smith, the job of these union committees is to "improve the health and safety of our players in a business that sometimes can seriously exacerbate existing physical and mental issues." So there’s cause to be careful, and nonrestrictive. Perhaps that’s why this proposal isn’t fighting for medical weed—it’s asking the NFL to chill on recreational weed users.

The recreational users, according to testimony of former players, benefit from weed use. The NFL, without proper scientific proof, is hesitant to concede weed is actually solving any problems. Even if it really is.

Circumventing the medical experts is the beauty and genius of Maurice Smith's 2017 proposal. 

In 2014, the union and the league decided to modify the drug policy and loosen the THC threshold for players’ drug tests. It wasn’t loosened by much, but was a micro-step in the right direction.

Now, the Players Association wants to loosen the grip even more, while they hold tight awaiting conclusive CTE and marijuana studies, and pain and marijuana studies. They expect to have more answers, at least from science, by this spring. The players hope that with new information, there will be answers.

An NFL a league spokesman punted in a written statement this past November:

“We continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries. However, medical experts have not recommended making a change or revisiting our collectively-bargained policy and approach related to marijuana, and our position on its use remains consistent with federal law and workplace policies across the country. If these medical experts change their view, then this is an area that we would explore."

Circumventing the medical experts is the beauty and genius of Maurice Smith's 2017 proposal. His approach might work: Ask the NFL to approve recreational weed—that doesn’t require evidence the league doesn't yet have. Instead, the Players Association will ask simply for the NFL to accept marijuana and allow its players (and doctors) to determine if weed is a good fit for each individual and their ailments.

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