Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, January 19, 2014

More on Marijuana and the NFL

As a bay area sports fan, I'll be rooting for the 49ers and against a marijuana bowl this afternoon.  But, marijuana bowl or no, it looks like we may be seeing more in the news about marijuana use in the NFL this coming week.  Via ProFootballTalk, HBO's Real Sports will be airing a segment on marijuana us in the NFL this Tuesday.  The segment will report that many NFL players prefer using marijuana to conventional pain medications for pain management:

But what about the players who don’t want to use prescription medication, given the potential for addiction and side effects?

“I wouldn’t know . . . how to respond to them other than to say that the NFL and the NFL Players Association have made a determination that marijuana is not a substance for which the exemptions for that type of use would be permitted,” Birch says.

Plenty of players don’t care.  Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson, who smoked marijuana while playing for pain-management purposes, estimates that “maybe half” of the league’s players use marijuana.  (Former NFL tackle Lomas Brown previously has pegged marijuana use by the league’s players at 50 percent.)

“For me personally, very viable,” Jackson tells Kremer regarding the benefits of marijuana.  “I prefer it.   Marijuana was something that helped me, as the season wore on, my body would start to break down.  I was in a lot of pain.”

If marijuana is an effective pain medication (and there's good reason to think that it is), its hard to imagine that it wouldn't be a next public health positive for patients to use it in place of opiate-based medicines.  Pain is a tricky thing to treat and surely marijuana would not be effective for plenty of patients.  

But for those who find it is effective (a group which may include many NFL players from the sound of this story), why not let them use it?  Pain is more subjective than most medical problems.  To know if a broken bone is healed, you'll go to your doctor for an x-ray.  But to know if pain medication is working, physicians have to rely on what the patient says about how much pain they are experiencing.  So if a patient reports that marijuana effectively treats their pain, what additional evidence do we need to know that it's working?

Here's a short clip from the HBO special:

Current Affairs, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports | Permalink


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