For the most part, marijuana has been accepted by the majority of Americans, with more than half of the U.S. legalizing the plant in some form. However, the National Football League, particularly Roger Goodell, wants to keep cannabis away from professional football, at least for now.
During an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, Goodell indicated that the NFL will not be changing its stance on marijuana for the time being. According to the league’s commissioner, cannabis is “addictive” and using comes with damaging consequences.
“There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that might not be healthy for players long term. It’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game,” said Goodell, cited by CBS Sports. “We really want to help our players… but I want to make sure the negative consequences aren’t something that we’ll be held accountable for years down the road.”
Yet, are Goodell’s concerns about marijuana use among NFL players reasonable or is it just the commissioner’s way to keep the league out of trouble, legally and financially? Historically, the NFL has been a politically conservative organization, which has never seemed to stay ahead of trending acceptable standards for society.
Roughly 53 percent of Americans have openly admitted that they have tried marijuana. That’s approximately 133 million people who have used cannabis at some point in their lives. At the same time, 55 million have confessed to consuming the plant in some form just in the past year.
Currently, 29 states and Washington, D.C. have medical marijuana laws on the books. Additionally, eight states have legal recreational weed.
Dissimilar marijuana legalization laws nationwide create significant problems for the NFL. Teams traveling to different states, some that allow marijuana and some that don’t, would cause legal turmoil and ambiguity if the league allowed its players to openly use the drug. The NFL already has a good share of legal issues with drugs just to add yet even more.
Per an article from the Washington Post, the NFL is fighting a lawsuit filed on behalf of 1,800 former players regarding the league’s loose policy on painkillers and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Litigation documents claim the players are suffering from permanent organ and joint damage caused by inappropriate and misleading drug distribution practices by some NFL teams.
To avoid potential problems or lawsuits down the road, Goodell may be thinking there’s just too many unknowns to allow players or employees to use the drug. To help back up his statements, no medical advisors have given the green light to amend the NFL’s marijuana policy.
“We look at it from a medical standpoint. So if people feel it has a medical benefit — the medical advisers have to tell you that,” said Goodell, as reported by the CBS Sports article. “And we’ll sit down and talk about that. But we’ve been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven’t really said [to consider a change].”
National Football League Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith believes it’s time for the NFL to change the marijuana use rules, especially when it comes to medical cannabis. Current NFL policy defines marijuana as a drug of abuse. Yet, Smith wants a broader classification to allow players to use marijuana for medicinal purposes and plans to present a proposal to change the policy to NFL officials.
Despite Goodell’s ban on marijuana consumption, the drug is widely used among the players. According to a USA Today report, former NFL player Chris Kluwe thinks about 50 percent of the league currently uses the drug. If the prohibition was lifted, the number would likely increase.
While marijuana may someday be proven to provide legitimate health benefits, the NFL isn’t ready for it. Until medical advisors or some other consultants find it a viable treatment for players, it is unlikely Roger Goodell will allow cannabis, medical or recreational, near the league.
[Featured Image by Bob Levey/Getty Images]