Here’s a question: Is the National Football League planning to allow its players to use medical marijuana in the near future?
The answer, right now, is: not really. But it’s not as clear-cut as you might think.
Even as individual states slowly legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, and public support for legalization continues to rise, marijuana use allowed among NFL players seems to remain far off. But it’s not totally off the table, either.
In an interview on Jan. 7, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a question from the audience regarding the league’s marijuana policies. Goodell was asked, essentially, if he saw a future when the NFL allowed its players to use marijuana for medical purposes. His answer:
"I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine."
Sure, that sounds like a non-answer, and it kind of is. But the key here is that Goodell didn’t give a definitive "no." There is the possibility, however slight, that the league sanctions marijuana use by its players in the future.
And if public support of legalization continues to grow has it has been, that could, perhaps, be sooner rather than later. Indeed, in an op-ed published by the Washington Post last week, Steve Fox argues for this very thing.
Fox is blunt. In his piece, titled simply "The NFL should let its players smoke pot," he highlights the league’s draconian punishments for marijuana use and aptly compares the effects of marijuana use to the hazards of alcohol use – which the league allows, and which has similar if not greater negative effects on the body.
Of the big four professional sport leagues – the MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL – the NFL by far has the most severe punishment for a failed drug test due to marijuana use.
The most compelling argument Fox makes, though, is for the benefits of marijuana use. "While some players might use marijuana simply to unwind," he says, "… many of them also use it for the pain they are subjected to as warriors in a brutal game."
Marijuana use could, Fox suggests, soothe some of the injuries sustained by players who are, you know, crashing headfirst into each other at high speeds.
But for now marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, which means it will likely remain prohibited by the NFL. Even though Washington and Colorado – states whose NFL teams are among the best in the country this season – have legalized recreational use, NFL players won’t get to enjoy the new laws any time soon.