Professional football players have been asking their bosses for the freedom to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal. But the powers that be, while they are allegedly discussing the possibility, at least here and there, have so far refused this modest request. They just aren’t sure whether medical marijuana has a place on the football field. That’s when player advocates began jabbering about the potential therapeutic uses associated with the use of cannabidiol (CBD). Some former players like two-time Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion Terrell Davis told the press that CBD “worked for me” to help ease joint and migraine pain. He then encouraged the NFL to take a closer look in an effort to give players more pain relieving options than pills.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association said, “What the hell, we’ll give this non-intoxicating substance some consideration.” And why not? CBD has been mostly legal nationwide for more than a year, ever since the federal government re-legalized industrial hemp production in 2018. It is conceivably one of the most popular non-FDA approved supplements on the American market right now, so why not see what’s what. Well, they finally met on the issue, and the outcome proved somewhat embarrassing for those players pushing CBD as a legitimate pain reliever.
The NFL says it’s still not going to let players use CBD because the science behind it doesn’t jibe with the “hype.”
Earlier this week, a special panel for the NFL gathered to talk about whether CBD should be eliminated from its list of banned substances. More specifically, they were conducting a fact-finding review to see if the CBD compound could be used as an alternative to opioids. Why? Because that’s the spiel the higher-ups have been fed since day one concerning medical marijuana and CBD. All the suits have been hearing is how the product would give players a safer way to combat the bashes and bruises that they incur on the field. It might even save some lives, they said.
But when the Pain Management Committee for the NFLPA took a look at the science behind this popular cannabis derivative, they didn’t find much evidence that suggested it would benefit players trying to tame pain. They respectfully denied it’s abilities. “CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the panel wrote. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”
Perhaps knowing that their decision might cause an advocacy fart storm asserting the call was due to the NFL being in cahoots with the pharmaceutical trade, the committee attempted to explain that the type of data they need to advise players that any drug or supplement is acceptable to use for its medicinal benefits just wasn’t there. Right now, the committee wrote in a statement, the main setback with CBD is it hasn’t been given a proper assessment in the treatment of pain.
“Clinical trials in large numbers of people are usually needed before millions of Americans use a medication for serious medical problems,” the panel said. “There are two small clinical studies that suggest that CBD may be effective for treating a kind of pain called neuropathic pain that involves a burning feeling usually in a person’s feet.”
The committee is concerned that if it puts its stamp of approval on CBD that players may get themselves into jams when treating pain conditions. Some of the CBD products sold on the market are labeled inaccurately and possibly contain dangerous, foreign substances that can make people sick, some studies have shown. So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any hemp-derived CBD products for medicinal use. The best the agency has to offer is the approval of a cannabis-based epilepsy drug known as Epidiolex. But that can only be doled out with a prescription and only for a two specific types of epilepsy. The drug hasn’t been given approval for any other health conditions. So, due to the unregulated nature of this beast, CBD is considered unpredictable in the United States. Due to the status of CBD products in the current market, it would be irresponsible for the NFL to support these products as a reliable substitute for drugs that are backed by science. But, also keep in mind that cannabis continues to be categorized as a Schedule I substance in the U.S., meaning scientific tests on human subjects are nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, the NFL’s snubbing of CBD doesn’t give the cannabis advocacy community much hope that marijuana will be met with serious consideration and removed from the banned substances list. The NFL and the NFLPA agreed last year to examine cannabis as a potential alternative to opioids. Many expected the announcement would result in a new bargaining agreement with updated policies surrounding the use of marijuana. After all, it’s a move that is becoming more prevalent in professional sports. Major League Baseball has ended its ban on cannabis as a whole. And the National Hockey League isn’t militant toward players who test positive for it.
Still, the NFL is apparently going to need more than just statewide legalization efforts to side with weed. Because if it’s not willing to get on board with CBD, a legal substance in the U.S., it certainly isn’t going to open up to an herb that is still considered a dangerous drug in the eyes of the federal government. As for now, NFL players will continue to deal with pain as they always have – lots of prescription painkillers. Or they’ll use medical marijuana anyway and risk the consequences.
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