Report: NFL Owners May Ease Marijuana Restrictions In Exchange for 18-Game Season

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AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Will NFL owners allow players to smoke pot in exchange for an 18-game season?

As the NFL and NFLPA begin talks on a new collective bargaining agreement, both an 18-game season, and loosening the league’s strict marijuana rules, are on the table. Currently, NFL players are suspended if they test positive for pot.

Former NFL offensive lineman and cannabis advocate Eugene Monroe is concerned that an 18-game season (something that would generate more revenue) will be exchanged for allowing players to use pot.

“The NFL owners shouldn’t hang a cannabis policy in the face of players in exchange for two additional games full of injury and concussions,” Monroe told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “There should be no negotiating here, and the players certainly shouldn’t have to subject themselves to more punishment just to heal with legal medicine. This was expected.”

Monroe, a UVA graduate, who played in the NFL from 2009-15, wants the NFL to allow players to use marijuana for pain as an alternative to opioids.

“On March 9, 2016, I became the first active NFL player to openly advocate for the use of cannabinoids to treat chronic pain and sports-related injuries. It’s time for the NFL to change its archaic standards to better protect its players. For too long, I’ve watched my teammates and good friends battle with opioid addiction and leave the game with a long road still ahead; it’s time to make a change,” Monroe said on his website.

So Monroe doesn’t believe allowing players to smoke pot should be a negotiating chip in CBA talks. He feels the league should just let the players do it.

“I’m hopeful, understanding a little bit about how contracts work, knowing this thing does not need to go to a negotiation to change,” Monroe told Breer. “I mean, look, remove cannabis from the policy. You don’t have to remove it from testing. You don’t have to create new testing, where cannabis isn’t on there. You simply don’t have to punish anybody when it shows up, period.”

But while Monroe thinks that marijuana is a better alternative for pain than opioids, some experts argue this concept isn’t settled science.

Rivermend Health, an addiction treatment center in the Cobb County, Georgia, wrote in an article published on their website about this subject in 2018:

“Is marijuana really a reasonable alternative to opioids for opioid addicts or for chronic pain? Maybe, but the science is woefully silent on the topic. What little science exists remains inconclusive.”

So while Monroe believes this is settled science, others disagree, including the league’s chief medical officer.

“I think that the science, unfortunately, has lagged behind a lot of the popular opinion and press on this,” Dr. Allen Sills told USA Today on May 22. “We’ve got a lot more opinion than we do science. I hope the science will catch up.”

And in fairness to the NFL, while Monroe is speculating that an 18-game season could be exchanged for more lenient pot rules, the league has never said that.

However, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, some owners are willing to discuss lighter pot punishments for players in the CBA talks.

“Many owners also seem willing to make concessions to the union on the commissioner’s disciplinary authority and the sport’s marijuana policy,” wrote Maske.

But Monroe doesn’t think this needs to be collectively bargained.

“It’s simple,” Monroe told Breer. “But they’d like people to believe it’s something that needs to be collectively bargained. It already is collectively bargained. You guys know that this is something you need to do, and the players know they need it. Get it f—ing done.”

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