At this point in the game, even the most cannabis-naive individuals know that the plant has been shown to treat chronic pain effectively—and without all the nasty side effects that often come with pharmaceuticals.
Many athletes have started using it to manage sore muscles and chronic aches, and while former NFL football players who were relentlessly subjected to severe injury and concussions are now opening up about using cannabis, current players don't think it's justified to keep it on the league's list of banned substances.
A recent survey of players revealed that, while most are using opioid-based pharmaceuticals to manage their pain, 87 percent of players think they should be able to use medical cannabis as an alternative.
Last month at a cannabis conference in Pittsburgh, former NFL football player Rickie Williams spoke publicly about the herb's efficacy in treating his own pain and concussions, despite the fact that marijuana played a large part in tarnishing his reputation after he retired from the NFL in 2004 for failing three mandated drug tests in five years.
Similarly, in July of 2016, former NFL player Kyle Turley told Sports Illustrated that marijuana "saved his life" after he became addicted to painkillers.
In spite of the league's noted issues with pill abuse (in a 2011 survey of 644 retired NFL players, 71 percent said they had misused painkillers while playing for the league), and public proclamations from ex-NFLers that cannabis works, commissioner Roger Goodell had some choice words about the herb on a radio talk show hosted one week after the conference in Pittsburgh.
Here's what the ill-informed commissioner had to say:
"It does have an addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered. And it's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren't something that is something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road.”
Unfortunately for Goodell, most of his statements are based on old ways of thinking. Let's break down what he's said here:
1. "It does have an addictive nature."
Whether or not cannabis is considered addictive has been argued for decades. Some say that using cannabis isn't addictive but can be habit-forming, which can lead to something called 'marijuana use disorder'.
A study endorsed by the U.S.-based National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that of people who use marijuana, just nine percent are at risk of becoming psychologically addicted.
2. "There are lots of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term."
The biggest concern with regard to harmful compounds in marijuana as of late have been related to mold growth and the use of harmful pesticides.
Within the plant itself, cannabinoid compounds have actually been shown to have positive effects on different systems of the body.
The most notable of these compounds are THC and CBD. (A recent study from the University of Bonn showed that cannabis can actually reverse the brain's aging process. How do you like that, Goodell?)
3. "It's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game."
Really? What's it about then? Perhaps if Mr. Goodell spent more time on the field and less time in an office, he'd have a better idea of the pain his players are dealing with.
4. "We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren't something that is something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road."
Anyone else sense some dishonesty here? Helping your players would mean giving them the option to treat their pain in a way that's less harmful than using potentially addictive opioids.
As for the negative consequences, it's a hard statement to wrap your head around when cannabis is either legal, decriminalized, or permitted on a medical basis in many American states.
Congrats, Mr. Goodell. These dubious claims make you the Straight's first-ever roach of the week.