The NFL Should Be Investing In Marijuana Research If It Wants To Survive

The National Football League has survived more public relations crises in the past year than most multi-billion dollar organizations endure in a decade. Yet the greatest existential threat to the NFL – if not to the existence of football itself – still remains Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or “CTE.”

As former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau’s documented struggle with CTE demonstrated, the presentation of symptoms that occurs in most stricken with the disease are not always readily apparent. Concussions and sub-concussive impacts on the brain cause the rapid brain decay that is a precursor to CTE. Eventually, the lobes of the brain blacken and loose density—causing depression, early on-set dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and eventual death.

Terrifyingly, the vast prevalence of the disease may not have been known until fairly recently. Just this year, Boston University found the existence of CTE in the brains of 96% of 91 tested subjects, all of whom played football at some organized level. When the disease was first discovered in 2002 in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster by Dr. Bennet Omalu, the NFL initially tried to limit the fallout from the discovery. According to Omalu, “NFL doctors told me that if 10% of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.”

NFL Seeks Right Answer For Medical Marijuana Use

Marijuana is casting an ever-thickening haze across NFL locker rooms, and it’s not simply because more players are using it.

As attitudes toward the drug soften, and science slowly teases out marijuana’s possible benefits for concussions and other injuries, the NFL is reaching a critical point in navigating its tenuous relationship with what is recognized as the analgesic of choice for many of its players.

“It’s not, let’s go smoke a joint,” retired NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington said. “It’s, what if you could take something that helps you heal faster from a concussion, that prevents your equilibrium from being off for two weeks and your eyesight for being off for four weeks?”

One challenge the NFL faces is how to bring marijuana into the game as a pain reliever without condoning its use as a recreational drug. And facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of former players complaining about the effects of prescription painkillers they say were pushed on them by team trainers and doctors, the NFL is looking for other ways to help players deal with the pain from a violent game.

NFL Reportedly To Renegotiate Drug Policy, Reduce Marijuana Punishments

Marijuana has been a hot topic in both college football and the NFL recently, and the NFL is reportedly set to address the issue by renegotiating the current drug policy.

The new rules will reportedly reduce the punishments handed out for marijuana use, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com:

When and if the NFL’s new drug policy is finalized and announced, it will include changes specific to marijuana and other drugs of abuse.

A source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the renegotiation of the drug policy, which has been going on since 2011 and includes testing for HGH, also will significantly increase the threshold for a positive marijuana test and reduce the punishments for violations involving that drug.

The source said the NFL’s policy on marijuana is outdated, pointing out that WADA has a higher threshold for a positive test than the NFL currently does, and in need of updating.