Starting left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, Eugene Monroe has become a leading voice calling on the NFL to adopt a more rational marijuana policy. Yesterday, he launched a new Facebook page and website to support marijuana in the NFL, using the #cannabis4pain hashtag to relay his message. He specifically wants the NFL “to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids.”
Image via eugenemonroe.com
Earlier this year, Monroe became the first current NFL player to publicly call on the NFL to do more research on the possible benefits of medical marijuana. Now, he is taking it a step further. His new website provides resources on medical marijuana for pain and concussions, and he shares his personal story explaining why he supports medical marijuana. He’s a family man. He says,
“As an athlete, my health is a priority and same goes for my family. That’s part of the reason I’m advocating for the use of cannabis as an alternative, healthier choice of medicine. Research shows that not only can cannabis act as an anti-inflammatory, but it can also protect the brain after traumatic injury (concussions). After I leave the brutal game of football that my kids are so proud daddy plays, I want to remember all the moments we have with them and cherish them forever, while also having the physical capacity to live an active family lifestyle!”
There are many former players who agree with Monroe. For example, former Super Bowl champions Marvin Washington, Scott Fujita and Brendon Ayanbadejo wrote a compelling op-ed last year, making a very similar call to Monroe’s. And earlier this year, ex-Bears quarterback Jim McMahon said that medical marijuana is the only thing that helped him after struggling with an overuse of painkillers. McMahon was taking 100 Percocet pills a month for pain in his shoulders, neck and arms. He says, “This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain — or thinking about it, anyway.”
The discussion about overdose and opioid painkillers is pervasive across our country right now. In every state, every community, there are people who are suffering from addiction to opioid painkillers. Eugene Monroe is not the only person calling for medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers. Recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imploring them to explore the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers that kill thousands of people each year.
As Monroe mentions, according to a patent held by the federal government, a non-psychoactive chemical in the marijuana plant called cannabidiol (CBD) can act as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant for the brain. How many more players have to suffer before the NFL gets with the times? The least they can do is let players use medical marijuana if they live in a state where it is legal. As more players begin to retire early – acknowledging the concussions they’ve suffered, or fear they will suffer, as the reason for their retirement – treating the issue of concussions in the NFL will require looking at all possible treatments, including marijuana.
To step out in support of an issue like marijuana reform in a scrutinized world like the NFL takes a lot of courage, seemingly more courage than Monroe’s role battling in the trenches as an offensive lineman. Kudos to Eugene and other former players who have called out the NFL for their outdated anti-marijuana stance. It’s time for the NFL to adopt a new drug policy that acknowledges marijuana’s benefits.
Derek Rosenfeld is the manager of social media and media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.