Former Super Bowl Champion Marvin Washington predicts that the NFL will reform its cannabis regulations next year.
Washington spent the majority of his professional football career as a defensive end for the New York Jets and would eventually go on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos in 1998. These days, however, Washington is spending his time defending athletes' rights to access medical marijuana. While medical cannabis has been legalized by 33 states, the NFL continues to ban players from using the substance. But that could change soon, according to Washington.
When the NFL hashes out the new collective bargaining agreement with the players next year, Washington says cannabis is likely to be part of the deal.
"The collective bargaining agreement is up in 2020 and I believe you'll see a sensible, non-prohibitive, non-degrading cannabis policy like the NHL has," Washington told CBS News.
Currently, NFL players who are caught consuming cannabis will receive a suspension and a mandatory stint in a drug rehabilitation program. The NHL, on the other hand, has one of the most lenient marijuana policies in professional sports. Professional hockey players aren't tested for cannabis use and aren't reprimanded if caught consuming cannabis unless they develop problematic use patterns.
With growing concerns around opioid addiction, Washington believes the NFL's policies are due for a change. Opioids are commonly prescribed to athletes to treat pain stemming from sports-related injuries. Medical marijuana could prove to be a much safer and less addictive alternative for athletes from all sports looking to mange the pain associated with their careers.
"Would you rather a guy use opioids which are addictive and highly damming to your body, or would you rather use a plant that's natural, non-toxic and healthy for you? I know plenty of guys who are still taking opioids and they haven't played football in two decades," said Washington.
Once the NFL moves to loosen their cannabis regulations, Washington said we should expect the NBA and MLB to follow suit shortly after.
If Washington is right we could finally see the NFL supporting players health by allowing them access to safe, effective medical marijuana.