The N.F.L.s Absurd Marijuana Policy

By NATE JACKSON SEPT. 8, 2014

LOS ANGELES VIRTUALLY every single player in the N.F.L. has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.

The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it. Some players choose marijuana to manage this pain, which allows them to perform at a high level without sacrificing their bodies or their minds.

I medicated with marijuana for most of my career as a tight end from 2003 through 2008. And I needed the medication. I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc. Most players have similar medical charts. And every one of them needs the medicine.

Standard pain management in the N.F.L. is pain pills and pregame injections. But not all players favor the pill and needle approach. In my experience, many prefer marijuana. The attitude toward weed in the locker room mirrors the attitude in America at large. It’s not a big deal. Players have been familiar with it since adolescence, and those who use it do so to offset the brutality of the game. The fact that they made it to the N.F.L. at all means that their marijuana use is under control.

Had marijuana become a problem for me, it would have been reflected in my job performance, and I would have been cut. I took my job seriously and would not have allowed that to happen. The point is, marijuana and excellence on the playing field are not mutually exclusive.

A good example is Josh Gordon, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver who led the league last year with 1,646 receiving yards, despite missing two games for testing positive for codeine (for a strep throat, he said). He was suspended again late last month for the entire season after testing positive for marijuana. (At least five others were also suspended last year and this year for marijuana, according to the magazine Mother Jones.)

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