Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan and former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe recently sat down with Katie Couric to discuss their stance on cannabis and its place in the NFL. Both spoke out about the benefits of cannabis for football players and the NFL’s ban on it.
When asked what they want from the NFL, Monroe says he wants the league to take “a serious look at the medical value of cannabis, which they currently deny.” He continues: “[Cannabis] is a substance that is safer at managing pain then they are currently providing.” A study in 2011 found that 71% of NFL players who used opioids during their career misused them.
In addition to touching on how cannabis can provide a safer alternative for pain relief than the opioids currently prescribed to NFL players, Monroe and Derrick also believe that cannabis can help alleviate symptoms from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease linked to repetitive head trauma. Identified in 96% of deceased NFL players’ brains, CTE can lead to memory loss, depression, and aggression in those who live with this disease. Several studies have illustrated the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids, a fact that Morgan and Monroe want the NFL to consider. While the NFL has acknowledged the connection between this CTE and football, they have yet to pursue cannabis as a potential remedy.
“I feel like the NFL has a responsibility to look into it, to delegate time and money to research this for its players,” says Morgan.
Morgan points to the NFL’s influence on American culture and society, saying the organization can help make a positive impact for those who could benefit from access to medical cannabis, whether the patient is an NFL athlete or not. “There’s a lot of people suffering, and there’s a lot of people that can benefit from cannabis as a medical treatment.”
Morgan and Monroe aren’t the only professional athletes who believe cannabis has a place in athletics. While they are the only two active NFL players to openly advocate for medical cannabis, they are a part of a chorus of former professional athletes who believe cannabis can be an alternative to traditional painkillers. Former offensive lineman Kyle Turley swore off prescription drugs to alleviate his head injuries from football, instead using cannabis to relieve his symptoms. “I’ve got all these issues, and I’ve found strains of cannabis that have resolved these issues like no synthetic drug I’ve ever been given by a normal doctor,” Turley explained in an interview with Leafly. It was his personal experience with cannabis as an effective alternative that led him to create the Cannabis Gridiron Coalition, a group that advocates for the NFL to change its policy on medical cannabis. Other retired NFL players such as former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson have spoken openly about cannabis as an effective and safer pain-management tool, calling for the NFL to remove their ban on cannabis.
These players have started an important dialogue by speaking out. Their testimonies only further demonstrate that it’s time the NFL begin to reevaluate its stance on cannabis.
The full interview is available below.