As part of effort to study “a variety of pain-management issues and strategies for players,” the National Football League and the NFL Player’s Association have agreed to form two new joint medical committees, with a particular focus on marijuana as a pain management tool. This move could represent a potential shift in the NFL’s long-held taboo around cannabis, reports Mark Maske of The Washington Post.
The news is revealing ahead of the two sides engaging in upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Previous reports have indicated the NFL would be willing to make concessions around marijuana in the CBA, and this latest move could be a step toward that goal.
While 10 states have legalized cannabis for adult use and 33 states for medicinal purposes, marijuana remains a banned substance in the NFL. Players still undergo marijuana testing and receive suspension if those tests prove positive. Though these two new committees are not solely focused on marijuana, their goal “will include a review of teams’ policies and practices for the use of prescription medication by players,” according to the Post.
The committees will each focus on different areas of research: one for pain management and the other for mental health and wellness. A prescription drug monitoring program will provide the pain management committee with reports “that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.” This practice, according to the league’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, is “happening throughout medicine, not just in the NFL.”
“We’re asking our pain management committee to bring us any and all suggestions,” Sills told the Washington Post. “We’ll look at marijuana.”
More former players in recent years have been outspoken about the league’s need to engage in honest dialogue around medical marijuana. Former superstar receiver Calvin Johnson, who is a “true believer” in cannabis,” is now entering the marijuana business with his former teammate Robert Sims. Meanwhile, former running back Tiki Barber recently launched an investment firm that guides marijuana startups through the tricky legal requirements of the young cannabis industry. He told FOX Business the NFL’s marijuana drug tests were notoriously easy to beat.
Still, any official changes to the league’s drug policy will have to go through official channels, like the CBA, which will expire following the 2020 season.