Prescription drug addiction is on the rise in the league, yet marijuana remains illegal
Gerome Sapp and fan
In April of 2016, rapper Snoop Dogg took to social media to voice his frustration with the NFL’s policy on marijuana, after learning that the league was offering courses to teach players to be a responsible gun owners.
“We should say motherfucking marijuana is legal, not fucking guns, you goofy ass motherfuckers. NFL, y’all stupid as fuck. Man, get at me about fixing this shit,” Snoop ranted in a colorful commentary. “How y’all gonna clear guns but don’t clear motherfucking marjuana? Marijuana calms a motherfucker down. Guns turn a motherfucker up. Nothing goes right with guns.”
Snoop — a longtime marijuana advocate and the father of former UCLA Bruins athlete Cordell Broadus — would later find himself standing in solidarity with several other players in support of marijuana use within the National Football League.
The scene is a “meet and greet” event at Las Vegas, NV cannabis cornerstone Reef Dispensaries on December 30th, 2016, where Snoop is appearing along with a handful of former NFL players. The purpose of the event, put on with the help of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, is to raise awareness about the NFL’s ban on cannabis as a medicinal painkiller and as an alternative to the addictive prescription drugs that are currently allowed by the league.
The hypocrisy he speaks of is that of the NFL’s inclusion of marijuana on the list of banned substances, despite it being legal in many of the same states that host teams in the league. At the same time, many players are succumbing to the dangers of legal, prescription opioid drugs that the NFL has approved for use.
“Twenty-two of the thirty-two NFL teams are in states that have legal medical marijuana. So the players from those teams can access marijuana legally in their home states and yet are still not allowed to use it, according to the policy of the NFL,” says David Nathan, founder of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, the only physicians organization dedicated to the legalization, taxation and “smart regulation” of cannabis in the United States.
“In professional sports where cannabis doesn’t have an enhancing or deleterious effect on performance, there is no reason for the drug to be banned from those professions — and that includes the NFL,” Nathan adds.
Doctors For Cannabis Regulation’s David Nathan chats with Snoop Dogg
Penalties for players caught using marijuana — even when prescribed legally by a doctor — range from a two-week fine to a ten game suspension. Following four infractions, any positive test for marijuana or any other substances banned by the NFL will result in banishment from the league. Just ask on-again/off-again Miami Dolphins/Baltimore Ravens running back Ricky Williams, who failed multiple drug tests throughout his tenure — many times testing positive for marijuana usage — before ultimately retiring in 2012.
“A game like football that is so physically demanding, football players should be given every resource or means to take care of themselves,” says Williams. “I think the NFL owes it to the players and what they have sacrificed for the league. [Cannabis] is a healthier choice than having to take what the doctors prescribe.”
Eben Britton, Eugene Monroe, Snoop Dogg, David Nathan, Ricky Williams, Gerome Sapp at Reef Dispensaries in Las Vegas, NV
Currently on the menu for your favorite EA Sports and Wheaties box cover stars are legal, NFL-approved prescription opioids like Oxycontin, Vicodin and methadone, each of which have been proven to be highly addictive. Adding to the problem, while states like Florida have begun to crackdown on prescription drug abuse, as a result they have seen an explosion in heroin overdoses, as many painkiller dependent people are turning to it as a cheaper alternative to opioids. Further, a study by Washington University in the St. Louis School of Medicine showed that retired NFL players consume prescription opioids four times more than the average patient, with their habits originating from misuse while playing in the league.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think that’s what we’ve seen with the opiates and the pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories,” says former Chicago Bears offensive tackle Eben Britton. “With so much being revealed about the healing benefits of cannabis, I think that it’s time that the NFL took a serious look about the wellness, safety, and health of their players.”
“We have a league where players are forced to use prescribed opioid drugs and anti-inflammatories to deal with injury, to deal with pain. We know those drugs are very dangerous. They lead to addiction, they lead to death in some cases,” says former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.