NFL announces plans to study marijuana for pain treatment

Eugene Monroe of the Jacksonville Jaguars plays against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tenn. The former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman said in 2017 that use of cannabis helped with pain due to injuries throughout his athletic career. “Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis,” he said. | Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The National Football League is taking actions that might lead to ending their ban on medical marijuana.

The league and its players’ union on Monday announced the establishment of a joint pain management committee to conduct research into pain reduction alternatives, reports ESPN.

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According to an announcement from the league, the committee will be charged to establish “uniform standards for club practices and policies regarding pain management and the use of prescription medication by NFL players.”

The committee will work alongside a new prescription drug monitoring program that looks into all players’ prescriptions issued by team physicians or outside physicians, and requires every team to appoint a pain management specialist before he 2019 season begins.

“We want to explore all of the strategies that help a player deal with acute and chronic pain,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told ESPN. “Some of those efforts require medication, some don’t. With regard to marijuana, certainly there’s a lot of discussion about not only cannabis but cannabinoid compounds, CBD, and it’s something that health care providers are exploring outside of football. That type of research will certainly be part of the mission of this committee and this program.”

A remarkable number of former NFL players have voiced their criticism against the NFL’s ban on marijuana use, which they believe can extend careers as well as save lives.

“This pain is never going away,” Former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe said in 2017. “My body is damaged. I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.”

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The league also announced a new mental health and wellness committee dedicated to developing educational programs on mental health for players, teams and players’ family members, and will “collaborate with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations to reduce stigma related to mental health and promote suicide prevention and awareness.”

Although the NFL’s marijuana ban still stands, the league and union have begun talks for a new collective bargaining agreement that could allow players to use medical cannabis by the start of the 2021 season.

“This is a medical exercise,” Sills added. “We know as providers that we need to get better at exploring our options in these areas. The pain management committee will determine how we pursue any of those compounds — cannabis, cannaboids — as it will with all avenues.”

Oscar Pascual is the editor of Smell the Truth, syndicated on GreenState and SFGATE. Smell The Truth is one of the internet’s most popular destinations for cannabis-related news and culture. This blog is not written or edited by Hearst. The authors are solely responsible for the content.