It is officially Super Bowl week in the National Football League (NFL) and unless you have been living under a rock then you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots this weekend for the NFL title. The big game presents an opportunity for friends and family to get together, to enjoy food, to have some laughs, and hopefully to see a very competitive football game.
The Super Bowl also presents an opportunity for people inside and outside of the NFL to reflect on the league’s cannabis prohibition policy. Currently, the NFL prohibits all forms of cannabis consumption, even when the consumption is in a legal state, and even when the consumption is medical in nature. That is a policy that the Uncle Cliffy team has very publicly opposed, and we will continue to do so until the NFL takes steps to free the plant.
A growing number of current and retired NFL players have been calling on the league to end cannabis prohibition altogether, or at the least allow players to consume cannabis for medical purposes in certain circumstances. The NFL has taken an uncompassionate stance against cannabis use by its players, with a prime example of that being the case of Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson, who uses cannabis to treat a severe case of Crohn’s disease, was previously suspended 10 games for failing a league drug test because of cannabis use. Players like Seantrel Henderson should not be forced to either use more harmful pharmaceuticals, go without medicine altogether, or be forced to retire from the game that he obviously loves playing. A policy that presents only those options to suffering players is unacceptable.
You can send a message to the NFL at this link here. The Uncle Cliffy team is urging everyone to send a message to the NFL to let the league know that fans support letting NFL players make the safer choice. If enough fans make it known that they support cannabis reform in the NFL, the Uncle Cliffy team is hopeful that the NFL will listen. Below is a message from retired NFL players to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calling for him to free the plant:
The Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is comprised of retired National Football League (NFL) players that know firsthand that cannabis can help treat the health conditions that many players suffer from. Because of their firsthand experiences with the wellness benefits of the cannabis plant, members of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition are speaking out against the NFL’s cannabis prohibition policy via a message (embedded below) specifically directed towards NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
With the Super Bowl right around the corner, the message is very timely. The Uncle Cliffy team would like to send a huge hat tip to these gentlemen for standing up for compassion and fighting to free the plant. You can learn more about the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition via their website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
In January the Uncle Cliffy team posted an article highlighting an announcement by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) that it would be proposing a ‘less punitive’ NFL cannabis policy. Details of exactly what that would look like have yet to surface. Late yesterday the National Football League (NFL) expressed an interest in working with the NFLPA to explore the idea of allowing medical cannabis use for pain management. Per the Washington Post:
The NFL has written to the NFL Players Association offering to work in tandem to study the potential use of marijuana as a pain management tool for players, according to people familiar with the situation.
It is the clearest indication to this point that the league may be willing to work cooperatively with the union toward such marijuana use, which is currently banned by the sport.
The NFLPA is conducting its own study and, according to those familiar with the deliberations, is yet to respond to the NFL’s offer to cooperate on marijuana-related research.
This is a big departure from previous comments made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In April Mr. Goodell expressed a belief that cannabis has no medical value. That claim is of course false, which the Uncle Cliffy team was quick to point out.
“Commissioner Goodell’s comments aren’t just scientifically inaccurate, they are harmful to players.” Cliff Robinson said at the time of Roger Goodell’s anti-cannabis comments. “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.”
The Uncle Cliffy team will be keeping a close eye on this story to see how it develops. With no details emerging thus far about what the NFL and NFLPA working in tandem to craft a ‘less punitive’ cannabis policy would look like, all we can do is sit and wait. We truly hope that the studies and conversations are meaningful and constructive, and that they lead to an improved NFL cannabis policy. It would be very disheartening if yesterday’s announcement by the league turned out to just be empty rhetoric.
An NFL cannabis policy that allows medical cannabis use would be a great step in the right direction, but would be an approach that would not go far enough in our opinion. As we pointed out in a previous article, anything short of a complete end to cannabis prohibition in the NFL would result in institutional racism continuing to be perpetuated by the league. Players like Geronimo Allison, who was recently caught with cannabis in a non-medical state, would still be punished by the league, despite the fact that Mr. Allison was the victim of a law that affects African Americans at six times the rate of Caucasians.
If an African American NFL player is 6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis off the field, such as in Geronimo Allison’s case in Wisconsin, then that player is also 6 times as likely to be punished by the NFL for cannabis. An updated NFL cannabis policy needs to address that issue, which the current proposal would not do. The Uncle Cliffy team feels that the only way to do that is to end cannabis prohibition in the NFL altogether.
A medical-only approach to an NFL cannabis policy will still result in players of certain races being targeted off the field, and in the process, result in them having their NFL careers disproportionately impacted. It would likely also lead to unequal protections under the hypothetical NFL cannabis policy, with some players’ use being considered to be medical in nature, and others being labeled as ‘abuse.’ That’s a situation that NFL players should want to avoid by all means necessary.
image via Wikipedia
The National Football League (NFL) prohibits cannabis consumption by any of its athletes, regardless of where they live, and regardless of the purpose behind the consumption. Players are drug tested and if they have more than 35 ng/mL of THC metabolites in their system, they are punished. In some cases, such as that of Seantrel Henderson of the Buffalo Bills, players can punished very harshly, even though the use was entirely medical in nature.
A big push has been underway to try to convince the NFL to change its policy. The NFL has improved its policy over the years, having raised the allowable THC metabolite limit from 15 ng/mL to 35 ng/mL, but that is not nearly enough. To put it into perspective, the Olympics allows up to 150 ng/mL. The National Hockey League (NHL) doesn’t even list cannabis as a banned substance at all. A very prominent NFL team owner, along with dozens of NFL players (current and retired) have been calling on the league to update its harmful policy, yet the NFL continues to cling to 100% prohibition.
One reason for continuing cannabis prohibition, as recently offered up by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, is that cannabis has ‘no medical value.’ As the Uncle Cliffy team pointed out at the time, that claim by Mr. Goodell is not only inaccurate, it is also harmful since it damages the constructive conversation surrounding cannabis and players’ health. Cannabis absolutely has medical value, and could do a lot to help suffering NFL players. Cannabis has been the subject of more studies than hydrocodone, toradol, and tylenol – combined. Those are three substances that the NFL widely embraces.
Another substance that the NFL widely embraces is alcohol. The NFL gladly accepts advertising dollars from the alcohol industry, with one six-year deal with Bud Light being worth $1.4 billion dollars alone. A big reason that the NFL also points to as justification for continuing cannabis prohibition is that it is being done ‘for the health of the players.’ But if you consider the fact that cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, and that alcohol is embraced while cannabis is prohibited, it’s easy to see that the NFL’s current stance is incredibly hypocritical.
That hypocrisy was on further display this week when it was announced that the NFL plans to allow liquor advertising next season. Per Bleacher Report:
On Friday, Joe Flint and Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal reported all ads for distilled spirits will need to include a “prominent social responsibility message.” An NFL executive told the outlet the league is treating the policy as a “one-season test” but expects it to continue.
The NFL will allow four advertisements for hard liquor during each game, and the league’s television partners can also feature two during pregame and postgame shows, according to Flint and Vranica. Meanwhile, products like birth control, energy drinks, gambling venues and marijuana in states where it’s legal remain banned.
Another reason that the NFL has cited as justification for keeping prohibition in place is the classic ‘what about the children’ argument. The NFL seems to think that allowing players to use medical cannabis in a legal state will ‘send the wrong message to kids.’ The Uncle Cliffy team wholeheartedly agrees that cannabis should be kept away from children. But what message does it send to kids that it’s OK to accept money to advertise a substance that kills 88,000 people annually (alcohol), but that it’s not OK for a grown adult in a legal state to use a safe, effective medicine like cannabis?
The Uncle Cliffy team is not saying that alcohol should be prohibited by any means. We firmly believe that adults should be able to consume alcohol and/or cannabis if they choose, as long as it is done responsibly. The point that the Uncle Cliffy team is trying to make is why is cannabis still being prohibited if the NFL is willing to allow liquor to be advertised during games, presumably to audiences that will include children, when cannabis is clearly safer than alcohol? How does that not send the message that greed is greater than compassion?
image via Wikipedia
National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell made comments on Friday indicating that he continues to support keeping cannabis prohibited in the NFL. His comments included the claim that cannabis has ‘no medical benefits.’ Push back on the comments from cannabis supporters inside and outside of the NFL was swift. A number of media outlets reported Goodell’s comments as being ‘dangerous,’ ‘draconian,’ and ‘pure reefer madness.’
Roger Goodell’s comments put him square in the minority of Americans that believe that cannabis prohibition works. To prove that point, the Uncle Cliffy team has compiled polling results which clearly demonstrate that it’s time to end cannabis prohibition in professional sports.
Fans Respect Athletes That Choose To Make The Safer Choice
Marist College, in conjunction with Yahoo, conducted a poll in which sports fans were asked the following question – ‘Would you have more or less respect for your favorite sports athlete if you learned they used marijuana in their personal life? If it makes no difference please say so.’
A substantial 68% of poll participants expressed that if their favorite sports athlete consumed cannabis that it ‘makes no difference’ to the level of respect that they have for the athlete. An additional 3% stated that they would have more respect. Only 28% of poll respondents stated that they would have less respect for an athlete that consumes cannabis.
NFL Players Overwhelmingly Support Medical Cannabis Reform
ESPN polled NFL players to gauge their level of support for cannabis reform in the NFL. Among other findings, 71% of polled players stated that they feel that medical cannabis should be legal in all 50 states.
The poll did not specifically ask players if they supported medical cannabis legalization in the NFL, but the Uncle Cliffy team feels that it is a safe assumption that support for medical cannabis reform in society transfers over to sports. This is made evident by a recent push by the NFL Player’s Association to make a distinction between recreational and medical use in the NFL.
Legalization for medical purposes would not completely end cannabis prohibition in the NFL, but it would at least end prohibition for players that use cannabis for medical reasons, which the Uncle Cliffy team obviously supports.
Support Has Never Been Greater For Legalization At The National Level
CBS News recently released poll results which showed the highest level of support for cannabis legalization in America that they have ever recorded. A whopping 61% of poll participants stated that they support legalization.
These poll results show a level of support that is dramatically greater than in 1969 when Gallup Polling found that just 12% of Americans supported legalization. The more than 500% surge in support since 1969 is reflective of how much times have changed, and highlight how professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis have failed to evolve with the dramatic increase in public support.
More Than 3 Out of 4 Sports Media Members Support Legalization In Pro Sports
A poll conducted by The Big Lead looked specifically at the level of support for cannabis reform among sports media members. An astounding 76.5% of poll participants stated that cannabis prohibition should end.
The results of this particular poll are interesting given the fact that sports media members literally have a front row seat to see how prohibition affects pro athletes, both from a health standpoint as well as a social justice standpoint. The huge level of support among sports media members is something that cannot be highlighted enough.
If A Player Can Consume Cannabis Legally In A State Then Leagues Should Allow It
A poll conducted by PRRI found that, “A majority (54%) of the public believe professional athletes should not be prohibited from using marijuana if they live in a state where it is legal.”
As the Uncle Cliffy team has pointed out previously, every Major League Baseball (MLB) team, National Basketball Association (NBA) team, and NFL team are now located in a state that has legalized cannabis in at least CBD-form. The State of Indiana (Pacers and the Colts) was the last remaining state that was a full prohibition state, but a CBD-specific bill was recently signed resulting in zero MLB, NBA, or NFL teams now being located in a 100% prohibition state.
“The math speaks for itself.” Cliff Robinson said. “Cannabis prohibition provides no benefit to professional sports leagues, and a strong majority of fans, players, and even most members of sports media recognize that fact. It is time that professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis did the same. These leagues need to get on the right side of history.”
Free the plant!
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!
image via Wikipedia
A big push has been underway to try to convince the National Football League (NFL) to update its harmful cannabis policy. Currently the NFL considers cannabis to be a banned substance, and any player that submits to a drug test and crosses the 35 nanograms per milliliter THC limit is penalized. This despite record setting levels of support from the American public for cannabis legalization in society (per Gallup), and a majority level of support for professional athletes using legal cannabis in particular.
Eight states have legalized cannabis for adult use, and nearly 30 states have legalized cannabis for medical use. Yet, the NFL clings to its outdated policy. Why? It was the hope of many that the NFL would be on its way to changing its cannabis policy after it was recently announced that the NFL Players Association would be proposing a ‘less punitive’ cannabis policy to the league. That hope was short lived, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear during his ‘state of the league’ address that the NFL has no plans on the horizon to make any changes. Below is an excerpt from a transcript released by The Cannabist:
Q: Given that medical marijuana or recreational marijuana is legal in many states, including Colorado, do you foresee any adjustment to that policy or any review of that part of league drug policy?
Goodell: “We always review our drug policy. That is something that our medical professionals do on a regular basis. We have had discussions with them in the past about that, not recently. They have opposed that. We are not restricted obviously by the state laws. It’s an NFL policy and we believe it’s the correct policy, for now, in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players. I don’t foresee a change in that clearly in the short term, but we’ll continue to be in touch with our medical personnel. If that changes, we’ll discuss it.”
Q: To be a bit more specific on the marijuana question, you said two years ago at the summit with Jack Welch that if there was more research done for medical marijuana for players, you would consider approving it. There has been a lot of research in the last couple years. Players like Jim McMahon and Kyle Turley have talked about how it has helped them. Where does the league stand on the issue of medical marijuana for players and ex-players?
Goodell: “I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana issue in the context of my previous answer. Our medical professionals look at that. That is exactly what we talked to them about. I would assume that it would be used in a medical circumstance or if it is even in recreational, our medical professionals look at it in both ways and determine whether they think it is in the best interest to do that. Yes, I agree there has been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view. Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.”
The NFL’s approach to cannabis is harmful to players. It forces players to use more harmful substances like pharmaceutical painkillers that often result in a lifelong battle with addiction for the athlete that is left with little choice in the matter. The current policy results in players like Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson being suspended for 10 games. Seantrel Henderson uses medical cannabis to treat Crohn’s disease and has had to endure multiple surgeries that has resulted in part of Seantrel’s intestines being removed.
If the NFL (and its doctors) truly cared for its players, cases like Seantrel Henderson’s would never exist. The NFL’s cannabis policy is clearly not driven by science, but rather the personal political opinions of just a handful of people in power.