Earlier this week the NFL and the NFL Players Association announced they would be implementing two new medical committees—one of which will explore the use of cannabis to help players manage pain.
"I think it's a proud day for the NFL and the NFLPA to come together on these issues in a very public way," the NFL's chief medical officer Allen Stills told The Washington Post. "I think it demonstrates the spirit of cooperation we have around our health and safety issues."
The new committee is expected to bring their research as soon as possible, and cannabis will continue to be banned by the NFL for the time being.
The announcement comes as a growing number of former NFL stars and physicians have begun pressuring the league to change their drug policies. As it is right now, players are most often prescribed dangerous opioid medications for chronic pain symptoms, and many players have argued medical marijuana would be a much safer alternative. The NFLPA previously filed a grievance accusing the league of endangering players' health by recklessly prescribing opioids.
In light of the NFL's opioid problem, Sills said the league will also begin a prescription monitoring program.
The new plan to study the use of medical marijuana as a pain treatment tool does not come with a commitment of future policy change for the league, however. The drug will continue to be banned even for medical use unless the league and players' association can broker a deal on reforming the policy.
Reforming the league's cannabis policies is expected to be a key issue when the NFLPA goes to renegotiate their collective bargaining agreement next year. Any positive results from the new study are likely to help bolster the argument for a less punitive cannabis policy.