Medical Marijuana Discussion Shows NFL Failing To Do Its Due Diligence


Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe made waves recently with his active and vocal stance on the use of medical marijuana, to the point that there have been some suggestions that it played a role in his recent release, if not the movements this offseason that built up to it.

Regardless of whether or not there is any truth to that, he seems to be part of a potentially growing movement, with Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan recently joining him, and the two spoke to Yahoo News about it, and about what they hope for the future in terms of not just the NFL, but around the country.

The original impetus for Monroe’s stance had been his experience with being prescribed opioids for pain, a common phenomenon well-known to every locker room and just about every player in the league. He even penned an article on the topic for The Players’ Tribune.

Other former players also came out to speak about their experiences using a variety of opioids, among them former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and offensive lineman Kyle Turley, who credits marijuana with saving his life after dealing with suicidal thoughts stemming from pain and opioid side effects.

The issue goes beyond pain management, however, for Monroe, Morgan, and others, as there is a belief that cannabis, specifically a compound in it called cannabidiol (CBD), has the potential for some profound medical benefits, which has already shown to be the cases for things such as epilepsy in reducing the instance and severity of seizures.


Staci Gruber, an associate professor at Harvard Medical and director of McLean Hospital’s MIND program, said that “there’s been some extraordinarily compelling preclinical work that’s demonstrated that CBD is incredibly effective at helping to limit the extent of brain injury, which is really very intriguing and promising”.

Brain injury, specifically the damage caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), is obviously a major medical concern among players, some of whom have recently cited concussion fears and long-term mental health concerns for their early retirement. But things get tricky and somewhat convoluted when it involves the NFL.

The league has the protection of the fact that their marijuana policy is in the collective bargaining agreement as “guided by medical advisors” and that “they have not indicated a need to change”, but that ignores the fact that compromises are a part of an agreement, and that that policy is obviously not in the players’ favor. Essentially what they are saying is that you made your bed, now lie in it.

Their medical advisors also fail to advise them that further research into the pain management and other benefits of CBD might be warranted; instead, they have sought to influence funding that they supplied to the government so that it distributes back to their own research projects rather than to one headed by a critic of the league.

The NFL has continually fallen back on the response that more research is needed, yet have never raised a finger in making an attempt to initiate that research, in spite of the fact that they have uncounted millions available to them for research of their choice.

This is why players such as Monroe and Morgan, and possibly others in the future, are beginning to speak out as the league fails to do its due diligence on the topic, and instead focuses its efforts on suspending players for recreational marijuana use, turning a blind eye to the other side of the coin.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • PittsburghSports

    Big pharma ain’t gonna let that happen.

  • Steel PAul

    The NFL has shown consistently that it cares not for player safety or what’s in the best interest for all. As an organization, it cares about profits and how its image affects those profits – nothing else.

  • RickM

    I agree that the NFL is sitting on the sidelines. I’m not sure they should be financing their own independent research as they can’t use the research for new rules that break societal laws. But they should be contributing to some sort of external research as pain management is a critical by-product of their sport. But I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting the NFL to do the logical and right thing when an expenditure is involved.

  • Orlysteel

    Anyone with half a brain knows that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than marijuana.

  • Dave D

    This is one of the MANY issues I have with the “league” (i.e. the administration part of it!). The fact is they have zero care for any of these players beyond the amount of money they can generate for the league. And frankly, I find it disgusting.

  • Spencer Krick

    I know someone who did like 4 marajuanas and they couldn’t see colors for a week!

  • Lil Smitty

    Once the companies brand their products and ensure their profits, they will allow for medical marijuana.

  • Steelersking

    Can’t completely fault the league at this time because marijuana is still considered an illegal substance in most places. Yes, this is slowly changing, and the league should be preparing for that by looking into all the research. Have they yet? Idk but until it is legal everywhere they will keep it banned. Now if it was a legal substance and the league still banned it then I’d jump on the league for not caring.

  • Brian Miller

    I wonder if Staci Gruber is related to the infamous Hans Gruber…???

  • walter mason

    I may be turning myself after years of observing those that are zonked. Maybe there are benefits to some bad injury cases. My question is how could you separate the guys that just want to get stoned and chronic habitual users from the guys that may actually benefit from this drug? Is Martavis using for pain relief? I grew up with stoners in the 70s, some of them have gone on to become everyday habitual users but not one of them claimed they smoked pot for medicinal benefits. Not a single one. How would you determine the ones that are actually benefiting from its use?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Actually medical marijuana is legal in just over half of the country. I think it’s changing faster and faster.

  • ItaliaRyan26

    People who want to smoke this crap need to stop hiding behind those with medical issues who could benefit from the drug. Almost every time this topic comes up its all about the person who doesn’t have a problem but they want it passed so they can run to the doctor to get a prescription. If it helps kids with diseases so be it. IF it helps players who have since left with brain injury or whatever, so be it. But don’t go making it legal for all to consume. It’s still an illegal drug federally, and unless it changes the NFL won’t change their policy.

  • Don

    If it’s difficult to tell if someone’s using for medical or recreational purposes, then maybe it really doesn’t matter all that much. Unless a person allows it to get out of control, what’s the problem? Same as for alcohol in my opinion.

  • PittsburghSports

    You’re a bit out of touch. Why should drugs only be allowed if they help the most critical of cases? Why aren’t we allowed to consume substances that help with small things? Coffee is a stimulant and helps give you an edge in the morning. Billions of people drink it. It does nothing for you medically, although it can help with certain things, but it’s not it’s main purpose of consumption. Should that be illegal?

  • Uncle Rico.

    Leave it for personal physicians to decide. I’m sure there’s the potential for abuse on both ends. Don’t know about high potential though. And I’m not sure why marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. For that there are 3 conditions it must meet. And all 3, not just one or two. Those are high potential for abuse (let’s just say check), lack of accepted safety under med supervision (eh, check?), and it must have no currently accepted medical use in the US (no check).

    The last one no longer stands up and the others are debatable. Should be bumped to III, imo. Down there with codine and the like. I’m sure Irsay had a prescription for Vicotin or Oxycontin, though not those quantities. And those drugs are Sched II. Mildly funny to me that Indiana is the only state with an NFL franchise that hasn’t legalized marijuana for medical use.

    I use to read stuff like this and think it’s just another Spicoli-type Jerry Brown supporter trying to get a foot in the door by extolling the virtues of hemp in rope making. But i never liked pot, haven’t had it in 25+ years and if legalized I’d have no desire to buy or use. But if it has benefit to players (or gen pub) for pain management and head trauma without the long term and very damaging side effects (see Kemoeatu) as what they’re using now, I won’t be voting no anymore.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Wonder how much it has to do with their biggest advertisers being pharmaceuticals and alcohol.

  • Rusted Out

    Not until ever state falls, and it’s no longer a schedule I will the NFL get on board. Maybe then, and after all the wrinkles are ironed out with federal laws will NFL players be able to partake of a plant that grows in the dirt.

  • walter mason

    Look at the other schedule l drugs heroin and cocaine and they both have had medical uses in the US but the potential for abuse is so high that im guessing thats why they are no longer used as medicine. Heroin is without doubt an efficient painkiller. The same can be said for marijuana it has a high potential for abuse although not physically addicting like heroin. Its more in the habit forming category like cocaine. If they approve a pill from marijuana without the side effects of getting high, and I think they already have in england, I doubt that many people would take it. Just my opinion. They want to get that high.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    That’s like saying crashing a car at 50 mph is safer than crashing a car at 100 mph

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Marijuana has been shown to increase the risk of mental health disorders including but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. It also increases the rate of infertility. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its benefits, but don’t compare it to the low dose of caffeine from a cup of coffee.

  • Orlysteel

    Wouldn’t you rather crash at 50 than 100?

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Yeah but I’d rather just not crash the car at all. Both are detrimental.

  • Orlysteel

    Rather crash at 50 than 100 mph, it’s a no brainier Jeff.

  • PittsburghSports

    I can compare anything I want to, thank you very much lol.

  • walter mason

    Actually its not difficult to tell. I can think of lots of scenarios where it could be a problem like showing up to an important team meeting stoned and giggling.

  • walter mason

    Yes same with showing up to a team meeting drunk. Not acceptable.