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Danny Kanell And The History Of Trolls Pretending To Care About Marijuana Research

This week the National Football League announced a partnership with the NFL Players Union to study, among other substances, how effective cannabis could be as a pain management tool for players. This news was met with a largely positive response while others said, with a tinge of sarcasm, “Finally.” You also had Chris Long, a well-regarded former defensive end who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, openly admit to using cannabis throughout his career and advocating the league to provide marijuana access to players.

Again, most of this was positive. Then you have the curious case of Danny Kanell, a sports radio talk show host who revels playing the contrarian a little too much. He decided to zig where others zagged and crafted a straw man argument around the positive enthusiasm of players using cannabis. Here’s what he tweeted:

We all recognize Twitter isn’t the place for thoughtful, nuanced discussions. But Kanell was unfathomably shocked at the negative response his opinion generated. He believed it was all unwarranted, as he, a professional takemaster, was just trying to start a conversation.

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But was he? Or is this yet another example of dogwhistling from commentators and those in positions of power? When users called out Kanell’s actions, the commentator grew bitterly defensive.

What a frustratingly banal sentiment. It’s double frustrating because it’s familiar to cannabis advocates across the country, where those critical of marijuana reform pretend they aren’t the ones blocking genuine dialogues with their concern-trolling. Because any bona fide individual on the front lines of cannabis advocacy would easily, definitively, no-questions-asked agree with the necessity to research and understand the plant better than we do now. But they also know that can’t happen unless laws change, as cannabis research remains blocked in this country thanks to marijuana’s federal status as a Schedule I drug.

The whole point, Mr. Kanell, of the NFL’s announcement is to do exactly that—research, understand, explore. Whether the NFL is acting in good faith or not, we’ll see. But to undercut and subvert the enthusiasm over researching the possibilities of marijuana as a pain management tool isn’t helping anyone.

RELATED: iki Barber Explains How NFL Players Beat Marijuana Drug Tests

It’s the same argument Malcolm Gladwell made earlier this year, when he pushed prohibitionist scare tactics without doing his journalistic duties of examining both sides of the argument. Just this month we saw how this type of rhetoric can block access for those who need help through the actions of the Texas Senate.

The state legislature recently passed a bill that would expand access to its medical marijuana program—the Compassionate Use Act, which provides low-THC cannabis oil to those with qualifying conditions—but blocked including patients with post-traumatic stress disorder because we don’t have “good scientific data” at this time. Yet those same senators nixed a provision that would’ve created a research program in the state, which could’ve provided that “scientific data” they were looking for. Let’s forget, by the way, that Dr. Sue Sisley’s landmark research around how marijuana affects veterans with PTSD is coming out later this year. But no, she wasn’t asked to provide expert analysis to the Texas legislature, despite being the most qualified scientist in the country to do so.

Dr. Sisley, by the way, has been a vanguard in providing research for NFL players around the safety of using cannabis in treatment. Did Kanell ask her or any other qualified physician onto his program to speak on marijuana’s efficacy? Nope! Instead Kanell gave airtime to Mike, a father who called into the program with a sad story about his son. Mike’s son smokes marijuana, you see, and Mike believes it’s robbed his son of any motivation or incentive to pursue a life or success.

And while I (somewhat) sympathize with Mike’s story, I also call bullshit. We have various studies that showcase marijuana as having the opposite effect on users. One study from Florida International University scientists focused on teenage cannabis users (ages 14-18) and found “no significant differences were observed between regular and light users on any motivation index.” We’ve also had research out of the University of Colorado that discovered using cannabis before working out “increases motivation” and “enhances recovery from exercise.”

RELATED: Former Player Says 9 Out Of 10 NFL Athletes Smoke Marijuana

And yes, by the way, there is evidence that cannabis can induce unmotivating behaviors in the short term. I would never deny that, nor would those who actively care about the science behind marijuana. But if you’re asking people to see both sides of an argument, Mr. Kanell, you too have to show both sides. Otherwise, you’re not at all concerned with finding the truth. You just want your opinion to be right.


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