DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, speaks during an NFLPA press conference prior to Super Bowl XLVIII on Jan. 30, 2014 in New York City. (Alex Trautwig, Getty Images)

NFLPA looking at marijuana as possible pain-reliever for players

HOUSTON — NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said Thursday that the union is examining cannabis and its potential use an alternative pain reliever for players “comprehensively” with the hope of presenting to the union’s board and later the NFL a proposal to alter the drug policy.

Related: Possible NFL marijuana policy change? What Roger Goodell has to say about it

“We want to look at the issue of opioids, but we also want to make sure we’re looking at the issue of how and to what extent players may be self-medicating if they can’t get medication elsewhere,” Smith said at the union’s news conference here at the Super Bowl.  “As a subset of the Mackey-White (Health and Safety) Committee, we will be looking and asking the people who have looked and researched the issue of cannabis, are there legitimate medical uses, under what circumstances could they be used and what circumstances may it make sense that this union would support a therapeutic use exemption. We’re not there yet. We’re looking at the issue comprehensively when it comes to medical marijuana, but we’re looking at it as an issue of pain.”

Per the substance-abuse policy that was collectively bargained by the league and players’ union, players are tested in the off-season and are prohibited from having in their system more than 35 nanograms of millileter of urine of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in marijuana that gets users high. Violators are entered into an intervention program and additional failed tests warrant fines and suspensions.

The NFLPA recently formed a pain management committee within the Mackey-White committee, which is tasked to study how players handle pain from NFL-related injuries and how it could be better managed. Marijuana has been legalized by more than half of the 50 states (23 NFL cities), but remains a Schedule 1 drug and federally illegal.

“Talking with (NFLPA director of player wellness) Nyaka (NiiLampti) and the therapists and the doctors, one thing we’ve always tried to do is when we’ve approached issues like this, what’s the right thing to do clinically, what’s the right thing to do medically, what’s the right thing to do therapeutically?” Smith said. “As we look at the current way in which marijuana is being treated under the drug policy, we have questions as to whether those three things can be done in a better way.”

Smith said the issue will be present to the NFLPA’s executive committee before it will be shown to its full board at Scottsdale, Arizona in March. From there, a proposal for changes to the current substance-abuse policy will be presented to the NFL.

On Wednesday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated the NFL would be open to considering changes to the drug policy.

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