A new ESPN survey of 226 NFL players shows their feelings about painkillers versus medical marijuana and much more.
The survey – of 127 AFC players and 99 NFC players – showed that 71% of all respondents favored the legalization of medical marijuana. Sixty-one percent said they would take less painkillers if marijuana was an allowed substance under NFL rules, while 41% said marijuana worked better than prescribed painkillers and 32% said the painkillers work better.
When asked about just how effective the NFL’s ban on cannabis is, more interesting results came forth. A whopping 67% of players said it was not difficult to beat the NFL’s testing system – most players only get tested once a year and they know when it’s coming – and 22% of players said they have known a teammate to use cannabis right before a game.
Sadly, 59% of respondents said they are worried about the long-term effects of prescription painkillers, and 42% said they thought a teammate of theirs had become addicted to them. Players are right to be worried, and perhaps more of them should be. But with the NFL policy being the way it is, that isn’t an easy thing; their union and the league are both telling them that pills and shots are the way to go, and many players still believe them.
But some have stopped believing and are being vocal about it. One of the most vocal, and therefore getting a lot of press, is former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. Monroe risked his entire career by taking a stand in the medical marijuana versus painkillers debate.
On March 9, 2016, Eugene gave an interview to CNN for a report titled “Is it time for football to reconsider marijuana?” He was in the prime of his career, although he was recovering from an injury. He was worried about past head trauma and future injuries and wanted the NFL to reconsider its stance on medical cannabis.
Monroe was soon after cut by the Ravens, and he has not played a down of football since, retiring in July. Fortunately, he is not alone in his advocacy. Other former players have come out publicly and called on the NFL to look into the issue, including Jim McMahon, Leonard Marshall and Nate Jackson.
Unfortunately the current contract between the players and the NFL lasts until the year 2020, so the issue will likely not be negotiated until then.