Gene Collier: NFL way behind the chains on medical marijuana
March 17, 2016 12:00 AM
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 50.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The NFL has no shortage of sources for its ceaseless embarrassments, but when the list is joined by no less disgraceful an entity as the Pennsylvania Legislature, that’s when you know you’re in something of a tailspin.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the obstructers in Harrisburg, still 100 percent leadership-free and flaunting it, stunningly have crept close to an actual accomplishment this week, specifically the legalization of certain uses for medical marijuana, potentially permitting Pennsylvania to join about 24 other states in the 21st century.
Possibly you further noticed that according to former legislator Allen Kukovich of Manor, the issue has been kicking around the capital for — wait, let me check his letter again in Wednesday’s good morning Post-Gazette — yep, 37 years.
Kukovich remembers that it was in 1979 that he first put forth House Bill 1342 to do the very things Senate Bill 3 should accomplish shortly, ameliorating the suffering of thousands of citizens across a range of maladies, including children with epilepsy who find no relief elsewhere.
“It makes no sense,” Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a California specialist in treading pediatric seizures recently told the website Medical Daily. “Marijuana is not nearly as addictive as alcohol or even nicotine and caffeine for that matter. We can no longer talk about medical marijuana as if it’s the same as street pot. It’s a challenging thing when there’s still a stigma in the medical community.”
The NFL, meanwhile, with thousands of players and former players suffering from just about everything except childhood epilepsy, still says, uh, not so fast.
In his now infamous Risky Couch Speech two days before Super Bowl 50 (“There’s risks in life. There’s risks to sitting on the couch!”), NFL commissioner Roger Goodell himself flaunted the league’s intransigence.
“I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana issue; our professionals look at that,” Goodell said. “That is exactly what we talked to them about. I would assume that it would be used in a medical circumstance or if it is even in recreational, our medical professionals look at it in both ways and determine whether they think it is in the best interest to do that. Yes, I agree there has been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view. Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.”
Of course, all of that was before Monday, when the NFL’s pace of change relative to medical matters got an injection of rocket fuel from one of its own experts. Jeff Miller, the league’s senior vice president of health and safety, speaking at a Congressional roundtable, replied “certainly yes” when asked if there was a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
And that was all it took for Baltimore Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe to undertake an immediate Twitter campaign asking fellow players to help fund research on the question of whether medical marijuana can benefit players with the symptoms associated with CTE, which is still only verifiable postmortum.
Among Monroe’s tweets:
I’m not here advocating smoking weed for recreational purposes. However, smoking weed just may protect your brain
Any coach, fan, GM, owner or anyone concerned about the player being “high” should know that they already are, on prescribed opioids
If I’m a fan, I’m [angry] at the time I wasted listening to Goodell lie to me at the Super Bowl. As a player I sure am
For any of you thinking Monroe is just advocating for a better climate for NFL stoners to fire one up in the car on the way to the airport for the exhibition game (not to mention any names), you should know that Monroe isn’t alone in his advocacy.
There’s already a group of former players known as the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, and they’re getting a lot of validation from the research on cannabidiol, which, again according to Medical Daily, is a cannabis compound with significant medical benefits that does not make people feel “stoned.” Cannabidiol-rich cannabis is “an appealing option,” for patients seeking relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, seizures, arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, PTSD depression and more.
It almost sounds like something your friendly neighborhood NFL linebacker could benefit from between bouts of carnage.
Representatives from 23 pro teams, 24 if you count the Cleveland Browns, showed up Wednesday at Pitt’s Pro Day, running Panthers draft prospects through the vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard-dash, pro shuttle, three-cone drill, 60-yard shuttle and some positional skill work.
What they didn’t do was run them into each other head first, mostly because that’s not part of the evaluation just yet, but partially because the professionals are finally aware of the damage that can arise from repetitive collisions. Finally aware. Clinically aware. And now admittedly aware.
It’s time for the league’s medical policies to catch up with its hazards. If you’re trailing the Pennsylvania Legislature in the Enlightenment Bowl, you should probably make some adjustments.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @genecollier.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.