Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is on a mission to remove marijuana from the NFL’s banned substance list. He’s so passionate about the topic that he donated $80,000 to Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania to study how cannabis affects football players, according to a press release issued Thursday by The Realm of Caring and CW Botanicals.
According to Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, the press release stated Monroe “cannot use cannabinoid products and is instead prescribed opioids to manage his chronic pain from sports-related injuries. He recognizes the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) for pain management and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and fully supports this research that could help professional and amateur athletes as well as anyone suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Eugene hopes that his actions will influence the NFL in changing their policy on cannabis and recognize it as a viable treatment option.
The NFL has strict policies when it comes to marijuana use. A first offense requires a player to enter an intervention program for up to 90 days and escalates to fines and then suspensions with further violations.
“Due to the NFL’s strict anti-cannibas policies, it’s difficult for current players to speak in support of the plant and its potential therapeutic uses,” the release continued. “Despite the risks, on March 9 Eugene became the first active NFL player to call on the NFL to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and to urge the NFL to stop overprescribing opioids.”
Monroe recently launched his own website advocating for the use of marijuana for pain management, as well as information about the “opioid crisis” and CTE.
“On March 9, 2016, I became the first active NFL player to openly advocate for the use of cannabinoids to treat chronic pain and sports-related injuries,” Monroe wrote on his new website. “It’s time for the NFL to change its archaic standards to better protect its players and set an example for our young athletes (high school athletes are more commonly using drugs than their peers and football players are most likely to use drugs). For too long, I’ve watched my teammates and good friends battle with opioid addiction and leave the game with a long road still ahead; it’s time to make a change.”
Monroe has been clear about his message since he launched his campaign in early March, and his Twitter timeline has been a reel of pro-marijuana tweets and retweets.
“It’s a shame that Roger Goodell would tell fans there’s no medical vs. recreational distinction,” the former University of Virginia star tweeted on March 15. “If I’m a fan, I’m pissed at the time I wasted listening to Goodell lie to me at the Super Bowl. As a player I sure am.”
Any coach, fan, GM, owner or anyone concerned about the player being "high" should know that they already are, on prescribed opioids
— Eugene Monroe (@MrEugeneMonroe) March 15, 2016
Monroe also tweeted that day that he donated $10,000 toward marijuana research and would contribute more “if nobody steps up.” It appears Monroe is true to his word.
“We’re doing two studies to start,” University of Pennylvania researcher Marcel Bonn-Miller told Philly.com Friday. “We’ll be examining both current and retired NFL players to understand the impact of cannabis or cannabinoid use on recovering from injury.”
The Ravens reportedly passed on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil — the top-ranked offensive tackle on the board — in April’s NFL Draft after a video of him smoking pot from a bong while wearing a gas mask was posted on his Twitter account just minutes before the draft began. Baltimore then selected Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley sixth overall while Tunsil slid to the Miami Dolphins with the 13th overall pick.
Monroe, who missed 10 games in 2015, already had a questionable future in Baltimore. Passing on the top tackle in the draft because of a leaked video of him smoking pot doesn’t provide a good indication for an oft-injured veteran who has been speaking publicly in favor of marijuana use. Monroe has only played a full 16-game season once since being selected eighth overall in the 2009 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Monroe isn’t alone in his fight. Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe has spoken favorably of marijuana use as an alternative to pain pills and former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson has been one of the most outspoken advocates for medicinal marijuana as a therapeutic practice for players.
“I weeded as needed,” Jackson said in a January 2014 episode of HBO’s “Real Sports.” “For me, personally, [marijuana as a painkilling alternative is] very viable. I prefer it. Marijuana was something that helped me, as the season wore on my body would start to break down. I was in a lot of pain.”
“The NFL sells violent entertainment but keeps it nice and tidy,” Jackson wrote for The Washington Post in 2013. “Networks cut to a commercial when the actors start dripping blood. As long as no one sees it, there are no consequences: There is only the next play.”