In January of 2014, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that if medical experts were able to prove that cannabis could help treat concussions, that he would be open to reforming the NFL’s cannabis policy. It provided a great deal of hope to cannabis supporters, NFL fans, and likely many NFL players. After all, cannabis has been proven to help treat all types of ailments, including brain injuries.

The exact proof that Roger Goodell claimed to want to see in order to make an informed decision clearly exists. Yet, sadly, Roger Goodell and the NFL have continued to cling to cannabis prohibition. NFL players that test positive for THC metabolites above a level of 35 ng/mL are harshly sanctioned by the NFL, even if the use was for medical purposes. Players such as Buffalo Bills Offensive Tackle Seantrel Henderson have been hit with double digit game suspensions.

In 2017, it is well known that cannabis has medical value, which is why so many states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes.  But for some reason Roger Goodell still strongly opposes cannabis reform in the NFL, even for medical purposes. In an interview today on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, Commissioner Goodell had the following to say about cannabis:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a strong statement against marijuana use Friday, telling ESPN Radio that the league sees no medical benefits and adding that “it may not be healthy for the players long term.”

“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players?

“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 going to be something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out before, cannabis is one of the most studied substances out there, having been the subject of more studies than hydrocodone, toradol, and tylenol – combined. All three of those substances are widely embraced by the NFL, and if they are considered to be safe enough for players, so too should cannabis be considered safe for players.

Cannabis has medical value, proven by the fact that the federal government holds a patent on cannabis’ medical value (Patent No. 6,630,507). Roger Goodell’s comments demonstrate that he has not conducted thorough research on the topic of cannabis. Comments below from the previously cited article indicate that Mr. Goodell thinks that cannabis can only be consumed in one form:

“Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have 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.

In states that have regulated cannabis industries, cannabis can come in many smokeless forms, such as edibles, topicals, and tinctures. The Uncle Cliffy team agrees that all things should be considered when it comes to players’ health and cannabis. But that goes both ways. Just as potential harms need to be explored, so too do benefits need to be explored. An abundant amount of information is out there, and the facts clearly show that cannabis is safer than many substances that the NFL currently embraces, such as alcohol. One study found that cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol.

“Commissioner Goodell’s comments aren’t just scientifically inaccurate, they are harmful to players.” Cliff Robinson said. “By denying cannabis’ medical value, Mr. Goodell negatively impacts the important conversation regarding medical cannabis and players in the NFL. Cannabis can help players that are battling brain injuries, chronic pain, and other conditions. But rather than work on a policy that is based on science and compassion for players, the Commissioner appears to want to continue to enforce a failed policy, and in the process, push players towards more harmful substances like opioid painkillers.”

NFL players should not see Roger Goodell’s statements as a setback in the quest to legalize cannabis in the NFL. Mr. Goodell’s comments are not based upon facts, but instead are based upon flawed political views. As such, it’s only a matter of time before the truth prevails. Current and retired NFL players need to keep educating Mr. Goodell about cannabis, both for medical and adult use purposes. Free the plant!

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