Despite being one of the most physically taxing professional sporting leagues in the world, the ultra-conservative National Football League has held a rigid stance against marijuana usage. While players— such as former Detroit Lions running back Mike James, who became the first NFL player to ask for a marijuana exemption—have jostled the league to make the necessary concessions, it has failed to do so under the current CBA.
Now, however, with the incumbent Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire at the end of this year, the NFL will once again look into medicinal cannabis usage amongst its players.
Not without a little reconnaissance work at first, however.
A Softened Stance
While marijuana is currently on the NFL’s list of banned substances, despite being legal for recreational purposes in 10 states, the league is taking the necessary steps to adjust accordingly. On Monday, the league announced a joint agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, in an effort to better promote player health and safety.
“The NFL and NFLPA will form a Joint Pain Management Committee including medical experts appointed by both the league and union, which will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies regarding pain management and the use of prescription medication by NFL players as well as conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies,” the league said in a statement.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
The new Committee will be required to identify and monitor any prescriptions given to NFL players—whether it be through team and league doctors or private physicians. It will also require each team to hire their own “Pain Management Specialists.”
“The Joint Committee will also receive periodic reports from a newly-developed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians,” the statement continued. “Prior to the start of the 2019 NFL Season, each NFL club must appoint a Pain Management Specialist who possesses certain agreed-upon credentials, including active engagement in pain management as part of his or her medical practice.”
While the usage of medical marijuana will certainly be explored, the league has stopped short of saying that the Pain Management Committee will be marijuana-focused. According to a report by the Washington Post, the members of the group will look to explore a variety of opioid-alternatives for pain management.
In addition to the Joint Pain Management Committee, the NFL also announced they will introduce a mental health and wellness committee.
It’s unclear how this latest development for player safety will factor into the 2020 negotiations, where cannabis usage is all-but-certain to be a major talking point. After all, this isn’t the first time the NFL has shown optimism towards a more cannabis-friendly league.
Back in 2017, the league said it would look into a CBD-based concussion pill for its players. While there hasn’t been any traction on that front, the NFL’s latest endeavor certainly instills hope for “greener” pastures ahead.
Or at the very least, less addicting ones.