The NFL is finally going to tackle its outdated ban on medical marijuana. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, cannabis use is set to be a big issue when the league and its players get together to hash out a new collective bargaining agreement around 2020.
And a group of owners is leading the way for reform. Rapoport says he recently spoke to 10 of them on the condition of anonymity. Here's where they stand.
"Each of the owners support additional study and discussion regarding what the league's stance should be on medical and recreational pot use for players," Rapoport wrote in an article for nfl.com. "The majority of the sample size supports a 'decriminalization' of marijuana that would make it more difficult for players to be suspended. Two of the principals involved in the issue said they are open to getting rid of marijuana-related suspensions and only issuing fines. Two others said they are worried about sending the message that drug use is tolerated and believe suspensions must remain."
So all 10 of them are in favor of research. And only two support the status quo. While the other eight can't speak for the other 22 teams in the league, their progressive position on the issue is encouraging. And some of the execs who spoke to Rapoport said their colleagues were onboard with reform. "One said there is a 'groundswell' of support among owners to ease suspensions for marijuana-related infractions."
The policy change would be a huge win for the growing number of retired players who are calling on the NFL to lift its cannabis ban. They argue that marijuana is a safer and more effective treatment than the opioid-based painkillers that athletes take to treat sports injuries.
"I want the NFL to take a serious look at the medical value of cannabis, which they currently deny," former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe told Katie Couric last June. "I want them to stop testing players and stop punishing players for consuming cannabis - a substance that's safer at managing pain than what they're currently prescribing."
Former New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Kyle Turley added, "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for cannabis - period. Cannabis has saved my life."
But the federal government might have to get onside with medical marijuana before the NFL repeals its ban completely. Right now, medicinal cannabis use is federally prohibited - even though 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it. Sixteen of those states are home to NFL teams, which means if the NFL did lift its ban, half the league wouldn't be able to access it legally.
And that made on exec worried that an Indianapolis Colt could get arrested for smoking a joint while a Denver Bronco could do the exact same thing without fear of arrest.
"Is that really fair?" he asked Rapoport.
Unfortunately, hoping the federal government for leadership on this issue is the longest of longshots. A "hail mary-juana pass," if you will. Last summer, the DEA turned down the latest petition to change federal law so that marijuana could be recognized as medicine.
But things could change. President-Elect Donald Trump supports medical marijuana, so maybe the new administration will lead the way to reform. And maybe his friend Tom Brady could help get that ball in play.
Banner photo: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock)