Eleven year NFL veteran, Marvin Washington, retired from the sport in 1999. Since his days on the gridiron, Washington has become a financial consultant to NBA and NFL players. He’s also a very outspoken supporter of medical cannabis, specifically the NFL’s stance on the herb.
Washington recenly spoke at the East Coast Cannabis Business Expo and is an advisory board member for KannaLife Sciences. By his estimation, 75-80% of NFL players are currently using cannabis. Even if they play for a team in a state where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, they are at risk of punishment from the NFL as all cannabis (medical included) is outlawed by the league’s substance abuse policy. A policy, by the way, which seems to have no problem turning a blind eye to alcohol abuse, even when it leads to horrific violence *cough* Ray Rice *cough*.
Washington says that while 80% of players are using pot, 100% of them are using pharmaceuticals. Citing new research that suggests cannabis can actually help protect the brain from trauma as well as repair tissues after trauma, Washington believes the NFL should lead the way on this issue, leveraging their considerable influence and resources to blow the gate open on the cannabis front, a gate that the federal government has seen content to keep sealed.
As Washington says, football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Every tackle, every helmet clash, is like a car accident. The intensity of competition and the perilously hard journey to even make an NFL team’s practice squad do not allow for these men to slow down, and even the best officiating crew enforcing the strictest safety rules cannot alter the nature of this game. It is barbaric and violent, and that’s part of what the fans crave. It’s the modern equivalent of gladiators in the arena. Besides, many injuries result from on-field accidents that really can’t be avoided outside of not playing the game.
Cannabis can help these players. It holds the potential to genuinely help players cope with the rigors of the sport. It also might mean a possible reduction in residual effects from such repeated head traumas, thereby giving retired players a decent chance of avoiding the horrors that a decade or more of high speed collisions has done to their bodies.
It’s a sad state of affairs that players are permitted to drink themselves into disarray or pop pills until their kidneys and livers dissolve, but they face suspension and banishment because they chose a safer, gentler option in cannabis.
And the NFL could put its weight behind this cause. If for no other reason than their exceptional media reach, the NFL has the potential to dramatically alter the global conversation around cannabis. Change mostly happens by degrees, like a tree slowly flowing from summer bloom into autumn. Let’s keep the pressure on the NFL by keeping stories like this one bouncing around social media. Strive to change just one mind and more will follow.