Commentary: NFL must embrace marijuana for player safety

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A few months ago, retired NFL tight end Martellus Bennett predicted that 89 percent of the league’s players smoke weed.

But I’m willing to wager that 100 percent of NFL players are already taking drugs.

Benzodiazepines, valium, xanax, opioids ala any form of a part of the routine for the average NFL player for at least nine months out of the year. Multiply that by the amount of years a player rams his body against a 350-pound wall and you can imagine why retired NFL players are four times as likely to abuse opioids according to a study commissioned by ESPN.

Some athletes can easily quit taking painkillers after their playing careers. Some cannot.

This would be reason enough why it’s time for the NFL to rewrite its playbook about marijuana — and before the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2020.

But here’s another reason. There is research and a government patent 6,630,507 — suggesting that one of the molecules inside the marijuana plant, cannabinoids (CBD), can help in treating neurological trauma like CTE.

“This is something I believe that’s going to be in the NFL’s future,” said Marvin Washington, a retired NFL defensive end and cannabis advocate. “If the NFL still wants to be the No. 1 sports league in the world, they have to settle these issues.”

Washington played in the NFL for 11 years so he knows what it’s like to deal with the pains of professional football.

That is part of the reason why he’s become a brand ambassador for a company called Isodiol, which produces CBD-based products. Currently, his company is having conversations with the NFLPA to help advocate for the group to consider their product as the league seems to be trending toward changing its policies about marijuana.

Washington believes the NFL will eventually embrace marijuana as a healthier alternative to painkillers over opioids.

And I don’t think he’s blowing smoke (excuse the pun) considering that last year the Washington Post reported the NFLPA was already researching the use of marijuana as an alternative to painkillers. The NFL offered to participate in the research.

“It’s going to change when the CBA is up in 2020,” Washington said. “It can’t be changed before then but the more states that make it legal, Canada is about to go legal, Mexico is about to go legal, it’s putting a lot of pressure on the United States.”

Mark my words. Marijuana, at least medicinally, will be legalized in all 50 states soon and this week’s recent news about the U.S. Food and Drug administration approving its first marijuana-based drug this week is evidence of that movement.

The door has been kicked wide open for pharmaceutical companies to cash in on cannabis and, for once, this could be a good marriage between big business and consumers, particularly NFL players.

And if the NFL truly cares about player safety over image, then leaders will get ahead on two of the biggest health hazards plaguing its league with head trauma and opioid addiction.

By: Shannon Green, Orlando Sentenial

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