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By Steve Birr
Officials from the NFL Player’s Association are pitching a more lenient policy on marijuana use to the league, in part to broaden pain treatment options for players.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, announced the proposal Tuesday, which seeks to reduce penalties on players who use marijuana recreationally. If the board signs on the union will still have to negotiate any alteration to the NFL’s drug policy with the League, which currently bans the substance and levels fines and suspensions on players found in violation. The federal status of marijuana as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin leaves the League with little legal room for major policy shifts on pot, reports The Washington Post.
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” Smith told The Washington Post Tuesday. “I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”
Smith did not outline their specific strategy for easing the penalties put on players violating League policy. The player’s union formed a committee devoted to exploring pain management issues for current and retired athletes in November that is actively studying the potential medical benefits of marijuana for athletes. The committee is not expected to release any findings until the spring.
“When it comes to the issue of medical marijuana…we made the decision a few months ago to form a pain management committee,” Smith told The Washington Post. “We will be looking at the issue of the efficacy of using marijuana, along with looking at opioid use and all of the ways in which our players are treated by physicians and sometimes not treated well by physicians and, being blunt, the ways in which they self-treat.”
Many retired players express frustration with the League policy towards painkillers and marijuana. While advocates understand the legal position the NFL faces, they are critical of how willing the NFL is to accept powerful prescription painkillers in place of less harmful alternatives.
A recent study found that patients who were treated for chronic pain with both opioids and marijuana eventually pivot away from the pills towards higher levels of weed consumption.