The National Football League would “consider” allowing athletes to use medical marijuana if doctors said it would help treat head injuries, league commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday.
The NFL, which has been heavily criticized in recent years for players’ concussions brought on by season after season of hard knocks, has a strict anti-drug policy that includes marijuana. Multiple marquee players have been suspended for marijuana use, including Von Miller of the Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos, who was suspended the first six games of the regular season for violating its drug policy.
Goodell, speaking at a Head Health Challenge event where the league and its partners were awarding innovators in “protecting the brain from traumatic injuries,” was likely responding to criticism over the league’s policy on marijuana — part of which is being led by marijuana reform group NORML, which just announced a Super Bowl bet between its agencies in Colorado and Washington to protest the league’s stance.
“I’m not a medical expert,” Goodell stated. “We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine, and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that.
“Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”
That’s not to say the subject of marijuana isn’t being talked about by former players.
The episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” currently airing on the premium cable network tackles “marijuana use in the NFL” with some illuminating interviews. Former punter Chris Kluwe says in the episode, “(Marijuana is) everywhere. Guys from the East Coast, guys from the West Coast, guys in the heartland, guys in the South.
“It’s not like there’s the smoker’s corner where everyone goes and talks about, ‘Hey, what strain did you smoke last night?’ It’s more, guys will be talking and be like, ‘Yeah, I smoked a bit last night. It did help me feel better.’ In the locker room when guys talked about it, it wasn’t about, ‘I’m going to go get blazed and tear up the town.’ It was like, ‘Yeah, I smoked a bit, and then I went and passed out on the couch because I felt like crap after practice.'”
Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson, whose book “Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile” was released in September 2013, is also interviewed in the episode.
“I weeded as needed,” Jackson said in the episode. “For me, personally, (marijuana as a painkilling alternative is) very viable. I prefer it. Marijuana was something that helped me. As the season wore on my body would start to break down. I was in a lot of pain.”