The NFL Should Let Players Use Marijuana

Former football players push league to accept medical marijuana.


"I was sitting in the training room one day and I just watched player after player come in to take a Toradol shot just to practice," says former NFL player Ricky Williams. "I realized if we have to take all this medication, all these pharmaceuticals, just to practice it can't be good for our bodies in the long run. And that's when I started to look at my health seriously and look for alternatives."

Williams, the Heisman-winning running back who set multiple rushing records for the Miami Dolphins, was suspended by the NFL and then retired under a cloud of shame in 2003 for testing positive for marijuana.

Dolphins fans, the media, and the league all turned on Williams, labeling him an underachiever with a drug problem. Williams ultimately returned in 2005 and played several more seasons in the NFL, but the stigma never went away.

But what if the league and the public were wrong to judge Ricky Williams? What if he was just ahead of his time?

Some researchers are now finding evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have two major benefits for athletes: 1) they act as a non-addictive pain reliever and 2) they can protect the brain from injury. These healing properties could be beneficial in a league where opioid addiction and concussions have become significant health concerns.

Williams is now part of a group of former NFL players who are lobbying the league to reconsider its position on marijuana.

The former NFL star was one of several athletes in attendance at the 420 Games in Santa Monica, CA this Spring representing the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group dedicated to the advancement of medical marijuana.

Cannabis is a banned substance under the NFL's player agreement and commissioner Roger Goodell has made clear that he will not change league policy to allow medicinal marijuana until research proves it is a legitimate drug.

But marijuana is classified as an illegal substance at the federal level, which makes getting grants and approval for research a long and arduous process. So former players are putting up their own money to get around the government's tight regulations and fund their own studies.

"Cannabis has been in the closet. It's been suppressed. It's coming out," says Constance Finley, founder of the cannabis extract firm Constance Therapeutics. Finley is working with the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition to produce the evidence players need to change NFL policy.

"The owners have to see responsible, smart people who are completely mainstream to have their experiences reflected, have their minds opened," says Finley. "I think that we could move past the impasse with the level of research that we're talking about doing. It will be irrefutable."

Players like Ricky Williams are hoping their participation in these studies can lead to change and help future athletes stay healthy long after their playing days are over.

"Hopefully as public opinion starts to change the leagues will soften their stance," says Williams. "Especially the NFL. They could really be ahead of the charge as far as getting this medicine to people who really need it."

"Wouldn't it be great if the NBA and the NFL and the other professional sports organizations accepted the validity of the science and the experience of their players and we came to a compromise of efficacy and performance and using cannabis oil to promote health instead of using opioids and other drugs [that] kill health?," says Finley. "There's this marvelous plant that with regular use could really truly minimize that damage. That's a beautiful story."

Approximately 5 minutes.

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Alex Manning and Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Joshua Swain and Meredith Bragg. Music by Podington Bear, VYVCH, and Alex Fitch.

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  1. See Seantrel Henderson as well.

    1. Airlines Employees say it’s NOT Isreal; It’s PALESTINE!
      OT Post: See…..rd-israel/ ?

      Israel is Palestine now, OK…

      Next, they will not want to recognize the European colonization of the Americas, and the term “Native Americas” still recognizes the European name of the Italian name of the map-maker, Amerigo Vespichis or some such… So “Native Americans States” wouldn’t cut it, either… There is no native American term for ALL of the tribes… The best we can do is, they are all “Indians”…

      Welcome to the United States of Indians, travelers!!!!

  2. Is there anybody who doesn’t agree with this? I mean, come on.

    1. I think it needs to be legalized first.

    2. I don’t. It’s a private organization and I couldn’t care less what they require for employment.

  3. Good idea, except replace football with European soccer and players with fans.

    I just solved a fourth of Europe’s crime problems.

  4. Former Dallas Cowboy, Super Bowl winning, All-Pro Center Mark Stepnoski has long been an advocate (couldn’t watch video, so it may have mentioned) for marijuana usage in the NFL. After his retirement, he became President of NORML, Texas. He would relate how on Sunday nights after playing a game, he would smoke a joint. It would relieve much of the pain from the game instead of using highly addictive pain killers, and also help bring him down from the adrenaline high from the game. It is absolutely ridiculous for the NFL, or any other league, to be testing for recreational drugs that have absolutely no performance enhancing qualities.

  5. Regardless of statements that the federal government will not go after pot-smokers in states in which it has been legalized, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. As such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the NFL to prohibit it.

    1. I think it’s very unreasonable for the NFL to even bother testing for it at this point. They could very quietly stop testing and takes a hand-off approach.

      But I frankly don’t care what athletes do off the field and think the NFL brings most of its headaches on itself with its ridiculously inconsistent punishments based on the whims of their moronic and egomaniacal commissioner.

      1. This is true, of course. I just think that it’s misplaced to condemn private organizations for not giving their approval to a practice currently outlawed by the federal government. Though, in fairness, Reason has been very critical of the federal government’s approach to marijuana. After all, pot is one of the pillars of Reason‘s philosophy,

  6. Only if they stand for the national drinking song.

    1. But “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” is just soooo fucking long.

  7. The NFL USA Should Let Players Everyone Use Marijuana

  8. In college, I played football with a guy who smoked prodigious amounts of marijuana. If it adversely affected his ability to get to the quarterback, it wasn’t readily evident. That guy got a lot of sacks.

    1. Tell us more about your days as a tight end. Were you on the hands team?

    2. Didn’t you go somewhere that doesn’t have a football team? Colorado somewhere?

  9. Challenge: what’s the gayest phrase you’re likely to hear in a football game? My entry is “tight end split wide”.

    1. Tony Romo under center.

    2. Any reference to penetration in the rear?

    3. “The guard pulls out to block the linebacker, and (insert running back) splits the gap…”

  10. It’s part of the 3 legged stool of Libertarianism – Reason is also agitating for more Mexican NFL players and encouraging said players to engage in hot rear action.

  11. Didn’t you go somewhere that doesn’t have a football team? Colorado somewhere?

    Colorado College. They got rid of the football program in the late 90s or early 00s, in order to focus their energies on fostering and institutionalizing the aggressively queer faction of the campus community.

  12. the gayest phrase you’re likely to hear

    “Stuff the hole.”

    1. Q: What’s the difference between a gay “fella” and a fridge?

      A: The fridge doesn’t fart when you pull your meat out!

  13. The war on drugs is not authorized by the US Constitution.

    1. Neither is Social Security, Medicare, food subsidies, a standing army, federal aid to education, federal aid to landlords, federal aid to homeowners, federal aid to foreigners, federal aid to tenured professors and college administrators, federal aid to banks, federal aid to unions, or pretty much the entirety of what people in DC do. But hey – they all take an oath so no probs.

  14. NFL internal matters should be outside the scope of Reason.

  15. Brilliant display of the Authoritarian “Do what I think you should” libertarianism Garry Johnson represents.

    Snap at people for their speech, treat guns as hunting objects and forcing people to bake gay (and we can only assume Nazi/Satanic) cakes justifying your behaviour by covering your Statism with the cloak of Libertariansism.

    The NFL is a private group that can do whatever the heck they want as long as they don’t break any laws or contracts. The players have no drug use in their contracts and they broke that contract. Real Libertarianism stresses the importance of contracts and personal responsability and consequence. Apparently Reason thinks you can just go around breaking contracts as long as you like smoking dope.

    Drugs are a very small part of Libertarianism. Drugs and Hookers are side effects of personal Liberty and Freedom not select catagories to focus on.

  16. lolwut?

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  18. Forget special privileges for this group or that group. “Veterans should get marijuana.” “Football players should get marijuana.” “Cancer patients should get marijuana.” Every human being has the inherent right and should have the legal right to use marijuana for the same reason we should all have the legal right to use other drugs. Because no one has, or should have, the right to tell another person what substances to put into his or her own body.

    Professional athletes, as a group, have the power, because they have the voice, that very few of the rest of us (with the possible exception of veterans) have to make positive changes. If they won’t stand for my freedom, why should I stand for theirs?

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