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NFL, NFLPA to study marijuana as a pain-management tool

The NFL and NFLPA will start a study to see if marijuana can help with pain management for players.

The NFL has finally taken its first tangible step toward treating marijuana not as leverage for collective bargaining but as a potential treatment for players who need pain relief.

The league has announced that it and the NFL Players Association have created a committee that “will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies regarding pain management and the use of prescription medication by NFL players as well as conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.” Although the release doesn’t mention marijuana by name, marijuana is one of the “alternative therapies” that will be considered, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

The league’s chief medical officer also used the “M” word when discussing the new committee.

“We’re asking our pain management committee to bring us any and all suggestions,” Dr. Allen Sills told Maske. “We’ll look at marijuana.”

Sills called it a “proud day for the NFL and the NFLPA to come together on these issues in a very public way,” touting “the spirit of cooperation we have around our health and safety issues.”

A separate committee will “develop educational programs for players, coaches, club personnel and players’ family members regarding mental health and wellness,” per the NFL’s press release.

PFT has reported that the league wants to end the prohibition on marijuana. Because the current labor deal gives the NFL the right to test players for marijuana and the power to discipline those who test positive or otherwise violate the substance-abuse policy, the league has been reluctant to unilaterally pull the plug on the prohibition, opting instead to try to obtain a concession from the union in exchange for allowing players to use marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Given that football players constantly are engaging in physical contact, especially during the season, it would presumably be very easy for players to secure permission to use marijuana for pain management. A problem could arise in any states where NFL teams are located but have not yet authorized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The states with NFL teams that haven’t legalized medicinal marijuana include Texas (Cowboys, Texans), Tennessee (Titans), Georgia (Falcons), North Carolina (Panthers), Indiana (Colts), and Wisconsin (Packers).