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NFL could indeed change its mind about marijuana, in time

On Sunday, the conference championship games will be played in each of the two states where it’s now legal to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes.  And while the NFL remains steadfastly opposed to players smoking for any purpose, the league’s position eventually could be mellowing.

In an extensive look at marijuana use in the NFL, Andrea Kremer of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel asks senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch whether a player who believes marijuana helps him with pain management and recovery should smoke it.

“He should not use marijuana,” Birch tells Kremer in an advance copy of the broadcast, which debuts on Tuesday, January 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET.  “[H]e should consult his team physician or primary physician.  If pain management is an issue for him, they can provide him with assistance in that respect.”

But what about the players who don’t want to use prescription medication, given the potential for addiction and side effects?

“I wouldn’t know . . . how to respond to them other than to say that the NFL and the NFL Players Association have made a determination that marijuana is not a substance for which the exemptions for that type of use would be permitted,” Birch says.

Plenty of players don’t care.  Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson, who smoked marijuana while playing for pain-management purposes, estimates that “maybe half” of the league’s players use marijuana.  (Former NFL tackle Lomas Brown previously has pegged marijuana use by the league’s players at 50 percent.)

“For me personally, very viable,” Jackson tells Kremer regarding the benefits of marijuana.  “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.”

It’s possible that marijuana can heal not only bodies but also brains.  Research conducted by Dr. Raphael Machoulam, described as the world’s leading expert on marijuana, has discovered the healing of brain tissue in mice given a marijuana compound.  Dr. Machoulam believes those benefits could translate to humans, too.

If that can be proven, the NFL could change its tune.

“I think we can engage in a lot of what if’s,” Birch said.  “That certainly is an intriguing one to hear.  Clearly, there is not something that is able to be put before us today to make it a decision that needs to be reviewed today. . . . We’ll look at anything that we think is helpful to players, consistent with our values, and able to be worked on within the context of our policy, certainly.”

But the policy hasn’t been engraved on stone tablets by the hand of God.  The policy can be changed.  And as more states where NFL teams play legalize marijuana, the league’s policy looks outdated — especially since it only prohibits the “illegal use” of marijuana.

Initially, the NFL shrugged at marijuana becoming legal in Colorado and Washington because it remained a controlled substance (and thus illegal) under federal law.  But as the substance gains more acceptance by the various states of the Union and in mainstream society, and as the potential benefits of the substance become better understood, the NFL’s ongoing desire to regulate player behavior away from the field that has no impact on performance eventually will look foolish.

If it doesn’t already.

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64 Responses to “NFL could indeed change its mind about marijuana, in time”
  1. filthymcnasty1 says: Jan 18, 2014 1:50 PM

    This is huge. Think of the money Viking players will save in fines.

  2. kcroyal says: Jan 18, 2014 1:54 PM

    Why wouldn’t they? The war on drugs is a failure. Doctors, legitimate doctors, recommend its use for a variety of ailments. It’s changed my life for the better, time for the NFL to evolve.

  3. D. Richard says: Jan 18, 2014 1:55 PM

    The sooner, the better.

  4. elliottcovert says: Jan 18, 2014 2:01 PM

    The Cincinnati Bengals approve!

  5. dukeearl says: Jan 18, 2014 2:02 PM

    News flash, it already looks foolish.

  6. coloneldukelacross says: Jan 18, 2014 2:04 PM

    Cash that bowl, baby.

  7. surfinbird1 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:05 PM

    Hell, they let the game officials use it.

  8. jackybadass says: Jan 18, 2014 2:07 PM

    50% try 80. It should be 100!

  9. elliottcovert says: Jan 18, 2014 2:08 PM

    Great news Seahawks, this is one step closer to PEDs!

  10. minnesotablizzard says: Jan 18, 2014 2:10 PM

    We should be ashamed we were ever duped into it becoming illegal in the first place.

  11. buckybadger says: Jan 18, 2014 2:10 PM

    Marijuana laws will start to fall all over this country like dominoes. Within 10 years there will be 10 to 20 other states that will have legalized marijuana if not more. The moment they see the tax dollars Colorado is pulling and the jump in tourism everyone will want in. In the end its about they money. It is a joke that the least harmful of the mind altering substances is illegal when one like alcohol is largely accepted. Makes no rational sense at all.

    Marijuana is largely accepted by the public. Prohibition of a substance that is largely accepted gives millions of dollars to organized crime and cartels. End prohibition of Marijuana and stop this revenue from going to the wrong places. We saw this with the Prohibition of the 20s when organized crime had a surge and we are seeing it now with the Mexican Cartels.

  12. eigglesnosuperbowls says: Jan 18, 2014 2:12 PM

    Will the NFL have its own brand of pot ? Will come in an official NFL baggy with the shimmery little official licensing sticker ? Will it give new meaning to the SUPER BOWL ? The possibilities are endless I don’t see the greedy NFL passing up this opportunity !

  13. rodgers419 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:13 PM

    There are so many drug addicts in America that drug legalization has become a political winner. Just another symptom of American society going downhill.

    Maybe I should support the drug addicts and their goals. I’d have an comparatively easier time athletically, academically, and professionally given that the competition are stoners. The more drug addicts, the more people inferior to me.

  14. outlawshark says: Jan 18, 2014 2:17 PM

    Alcohol and cigarettes are legal. Marijuana is not. Weird.

  15. eigglesnosuperbowls says: Jan 18, 2014 2:26 PM

    Is it legal in OMAHA ?

  16. asimonetti88 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:27 PM

    I Don’t use it but just legalize it…

  17. steelbreeze676 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:28 PM

    Ricky Williams was right.

  18. sfm073 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:28 PM

    I’m all for the legalization, but you’re kidding yourself if you think these players are doing it for “pain management”.

  19. pkrlvr says: Jan 18, 2014 2:29 PM

    Notice that he said “consistent with our values”? That’s one of the biggest hurdles to nationwide legalization. MJ has been demonized by the religious right and the good old boys of the bible belt for so long that there is a stigma among the older folks and the zealots that it is a mind altering gateway drug that will lead to the ruin of society. Meanwhile those same people drink wine in church and get hammered every weekend, but never stop to consider their own hypocrysy.

  20. bert1913 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:30 PM

    weed is not a performance enhancer, it’s a dehancher

  21. pkrlvr says: Jan 18, 2014 2:34 PM

    Alcohol leads to around 85k deaths a year and has been shown to cause heart, liver and brain problems. MJ leads to NO deaths a year and has been shown to help with many medical conditions. Yet you can buy the alcohol in every gas station, grocery store and CVS in the country but do serious time for mj. What a f’d up money driven society we have.

  22. chinahand11 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:35 PM

    I don’t use it but I have distributed it in various forms for medical purposes. Just legalize it already and sell it in drug stores or liquor stores or whatever. It’s outgrown it’s usefulness as a political football. Pun not intended. I would rather a person be driving stoned than drunk.

  23. zeke2517 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:37 PM

    The fact that we care about adults smoking pot is embarrassing.

  24. kev86 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:37 PM

    Coughlin and Eli discussing gameplan over a joint in 2014? Wow!!

  25. ibreathefootball says: Jan 18, 2014 2:39 PM

    I don’t see a problem with it. It’s not a performance enhancer, it’s a pain reliever, and it doesn’t make you act like The Exorcist when you smoke it.

  26. bigwalt2990 says: Jan 18, 2014 2:43 PM

    I’ll be available for human trials if you need…MY brain could use some healing.

  27. keepingitrealdumb says: Jan 18, 2014 2:47 PM

    the NFL power elite are stupid. “especially since it only prohibits the “illegal use” of marijuana”.

    but its LEGAL in Colorado and Washington! so if it is legal then what is this about “ILLEGAL USE” ???

  28. bucrightoff says: Jan 18, 2014 2:48 PM

    I think every single one of us would rather have guys staying some smoking a few doobies than going out to the club, gettting hammered and then getting into some stupidity (DUIs namely). Alcohol is substantially worse than marijuana, not even debatable in my opinion.

  29. offthelows says: Jan 18, 2014 2:48 PM

    other than aspirin or Acetaminophen, there’s not a lot of pain management drugs less additive than marijuana. I think the league should ignore it unless you show up to work high or get in some sort of legal trouble using it.

  30. noahbird says: Jan 18, 2014 2:52 PM

    That is a well written perspective, Mike! I’m glad you mentioned a study showing benefit & not being a stereotyper.

  31. bnwpnw says: Jan 18, 2014 2:53 PM

    It’d be nice to see the NFL lead the way on an issue like this for once, rather than just begrudgingly get dragged along once it’s 100% safe to join the bandwagon.

  32. mistyzhang says: Jan 18, 2014 2:54 PM

    You mean Mike Leshore will no longer have to eat his stash?! He can smoke it? sweet

    Go Lion’s

  33. nflgiant says: Jan 18, 2014 2:55 PM

    The NFL is just Blowing Smoke.

  34. topcide says: Jan 18, 2014 2:59 PM

    First of all, I don’t smoke pot. I do openly admit that I did smoke it pretty regularly in college and occasionally in high school, but it has been years since I have done it.

    Synthetic pain killers are highly addictive, destroy the body, and they are handed out like candy by docters. We have all seen the documentaries about Oxy Contin destroying small towns across the country. Basically they are the scourge of humanity.

    I find it absurd that in 2014 we are still talking about people smoking a plant being an issue when literally within 2 miles of my house there are 4 state licensed liquor stores, 4 grocery stores that sell alcohol, a drug store that sells alcohol, 2 bars, and 5 restaruants that serve alcohol.

    Not to mention that it would be insanely easy for me to go to a docter and get perscription narcotics of various types as long as I presented an insurance card so they can bill someone.

    The older I do get, I am never ceased to be amazed by how many adults that I run into in my professional and personal life that still smoke weed in the shadows and hide it. And to be completely honest, the only reason I don’t smoke it is that I am not willing to risk my career and freedom over smoking a plant. But I do think that it’s pretty hipporcritical that you can get served or buy alcohol everywhere you look, and hard drug abuse is legal as long as you get it from a docter, but yet smoking a plant can get you thrown in jail and ruin your life.

  35. meatcarroll says: Jan 18, 2014 3:00 PM

    If the NFL stops prohibiting marijuana use, expect Percy Harvin to be the 2014 league MVP.

  36. meatcarroll says: Jan 18, 2014 3:00 PM

    If the NFL stops prohibiting marijuana use, expect Percy Harvin to be the 2014 league MVP.

  37. meatcarroll says: Jan 18, 2014 3:00 PM

    If the NFL stops prohibiting marijuana use, expect Percy Harvin to be the 2014 league MVP.

  38. thisdamnbox says: Jan 18, 2014 3:01 PM

    Seriously, with all the potential uses for marijuana, and all of the incredible medicinal properties, it’s a wonder that it is still so demonized. If Nixon hadn’t tossed that expensive study report into the trash it would be sold side-by-side with booze. It’s so much safer and not one death by overdose (sure, a bad trip now and then.).

    You’d think with bible thumpers always looking for signs from God, it’s sad that they may have missed the most useful, viable and multifaceted miracle plant ‘He’ put on this planet for humans and animals alike.

    Give it up and legalize it. Regulate and reap the taxes…

  39. ryann252013 says: Jan 18, 2014 3:03 PM

    The fact that we are selling synthetic marijuana in gas stations & smoke shops is ridiculous, that is the type of marijuana that should be illegal. But for some reason America thinks a chemical form of Marijuana that burns holes in your brain and makes you trip to the point of eating dogs and other peoples faces off is better for you then the plant version that freezes cancer cells, gets people through anorexia and makes you an all around happier person.

    The governors of New York, Seattle and Colorado seem to be the only people who actually know their facts about Marijuana.

  40. staffordsyear says: Jan 18, 2014 3:06 PM

    Its just a plant.

  41. kd75 says: Jan 18, 2014 3:15 PM

    Let he without sin cast the first stone.

  42. hiiiznberg says: Jan 18, 2014 3:15 PM

    When was the last time you heard of Percy Harvin suffering from migraines while with the Seahawks?

  43. gadgetdawg says: Jan 18, 2014 3:20 PM

    Unfortunately marijuana use is still illegal in the all 50 states. I suggest everyone ask their local Congresscritter why, I have no answer. Even in the states that allow it companies can ban its use and that is totally legal too. I understand why folks wouldn’t want people high on marijuana at work but not to use it the night before? I have no answer for that either.

    Someday we will figure all this out as a country. Until then beware because employers have the legal right and SCOTUS says the feds have the right to demand otherwise. . .

  44. romo2dez88 says: Jan 18, 2014 3:27 PM

    Marijuana and the NFL are the two greatest things on planet earth.

  45. patsfan1820 says: Jan 18, 2014 3:33 PM

    If more NFL players were smoking weed instead of PEDs they would have less of an image problem. Just legalize it already the money is too good to pass up and it is not a lethal drug the only thing that could get killed is the amount of food in their refrigerator.

  46. mrlaloosh says: Jan 18, 2014 3:33 PM

    REEFER MADNESS! What?………..
    You think games are slow now. Just wait until the teams can get baked on the sidelines. Can’t wait!
    There will have to be munchies breaks during time outs.

  47. patsfan1820 says: Jan 18, 2014 3:34 PM

    instead of using PEDs*.

  48. broncostevenp says: Jan 18, 2014 4:20 PM

    I’m so sick of this debate. Just legalize it.

  49. kirburnicus says: Jan 18, 2014 4:20 PM

    Omaha Kush Kush Omaha White Rhino Hike!

  50. ttommytom says: Jan 18, 2014 4:30 PM

    The DUMBEST thing EVER, is to use synthetic drugs for pain management vs. something that has been growing in your yard since the caveman.

    The country’s drug companies is BIG business.
    It IS all about money.

    I spent over a decade as a narcotics cop and I can’t even begin to explain the waste of money it is. ESPECIALLY regarding weed.

    Pain management should be whatever works for you, regardless of the idiots who take kickbacks from drug companies.

  51. pilediver says: Jan 18, 2014 5:41 PM

    Pass the Doritos ….

  52. philliephaninva says: Jan 18, 2014 5:59 PM

    Sounds like those pee tests the NFL uses are doing a heck of a job.

  53. thetooloftools says: Jan 18, 2014 6:22 PM

    just be like the NBA and ignore it.

  54. rayguyreturns says: Jan 18, 2014 6:40 PM

    This” I’d rather have someone smokin’ and driving than drinking and driving” is a moronic argument.
    I’D rather have ALL drivers UNIMPAIRED while driving.

    And can’t you just wait for a team huddle full of potheads on the field too. We already have too many “delay of game ” penalties 🙂

  55. TheWizard says: Jan 18, 2014 7:30 PM

    Serious people with serious jobs are subject to drug testing.

    That last thing we need is another reason for people to remain unemployed.

  56. nineball26 says: Jan 18, 2014 7:53 PM

    sure they could change their minds but not before they take a cheap shot at the Seahawks, wont know who the NFL is after the Superbowl.. retiring

  57. nathpz says: Jan 18, 2014 8:48 PM

    For many people, marijuana treats issues of pain better than prescription pills, and it’s also less addictive and comes with fewer side effects. The idea that players already are forbidden from smoking marijuana is the backwards idea, IMO. Getting shot up with Toradol and popping a couple of Vicodin is supposedly safer?

  58. bftigers724 says: Jan 18, 2014 9:09 PM

    TOMMY GUNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  59. helix828 says: Jan 18, 2014 9:24 PM

    The whole “If you legalize it people will be stoned all the time” argument is kind of silly.

    Sure, some people are going to be baked all day, but those are the type of people that would have been messed up all day regardless. Alcohol is perfectly legal, and more readily available, yet the entire nation isn’t drunk 24/7. Why should pot be any different?

  60. GrossmanDaSexCannon says: Jan 18, 2014 9:45 PM

    So all we need is NY and FL and league is on board?

  61. eyeandfootballofhorus says: Jan 18, 2014 9:56 PM

    One mile high
    And when Pats touchdown
    You’ll find that it’s
    Stranger than known

    Signs in the crowd
    That say where it’s goin’
    Are somehow
    denying the truth

    Nowhere is
    There warmth to be found
    Among broncs afraid
    Of losing their ground

    gray Foxtown
    Known for its sound
    In places
    Small faces unbound

    Huddled in storms
    One confused
    One just true to form

    Sideline scenes
    And blackstick QB
    All living
    Bill standing alone

  62. nyjetblue says: Jan 18, 2014 10:11 PM

    Yeah, because no one needs to worry about addiction or side effects from smoking marijuana.

  63. depotnator says: Jan 18, 2014 10:51 PM

    Though pot is legal as a recreational drug in both CO and WA, it would be interesting to know if the employee policy of companies operating in those states has changed at all. Many companies do routine drug testing, and does anyone think those companies have changed their policy on pot? It might be legal, but that doesn’t mean they are going to tolerate their employees being stoned at work. Pot can still be a banned substance in the workplace even if it is legal. The same is true for alcohol. If you blow a .05 at work, you are probably toast.

  64. djshnooks says: Jan 19, 2014 12:35 PM

    So nice to finally see people getting educated on this.

    It could literally change our country.

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