Speaking at a marijuana business conference in Denver on Wednesday, former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson said the NFL should allow marijuana use so players can treat the physical pain that comes with the job without becoming reliant on opiate painkillers.
Jackson said he avoided opiate painkillers as much as he could during his six-year career from 2003-08. Instead, he self-medicated with marijuana so that he wouldn’t retire addicted to prescription drugs like so many of his contemporaries, he said.
“It kept my brain clean,” Jackson said Wednesday during the Cannabis Business Executives Breakfast that kicked off a three-day conference titled “Sports, Meds and Money.”
“I feel like I exited the game with my mind intact. And I credit that to marijuana in a lot of ways and not getting hooked on these pain pills that are recklessly distributed in the league when a guy gets an injury,” Jackson said.
Here’s why Jackson may be on to something, beyond the reasons stated above.
1. Marijuana could help prevent CTE
Though no extensive studies have been done, some scientists think “that compounds found in marijuana could play a vital role in protecting player’s brains,” renowned Harvard psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon wrote in an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last year. Grinspoon called on the deep-pocketed NFL owners to fund a study to see just how effective marijuana could be in treating concussed brains, if anything for the sake of the league’s self-preservation in the wake of the $765 million concussion settlement the league reached with thousands of former players.
Last year, Goodell said the league would consider allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes if it’s found to be a legitimate medical solution, though for now marijuana use is still prohibited.
2. Marijuana is becoming increasingly legal
Marijuana is legal for personal use in four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Plus, it’s sort-of legal in the District of Columbia and it’s either legal for medical use or heavily decriminalized (or both) in 23 states. Legalization has led to a number of employment issues, namely: Should employers be allowed to ban the use of a legal product during non-work hours?
3. The NFL’s lax drug-testing policy is a sign that the league turns a blind eye to marijuana use
As Jackson noted in his speech, NFL players are tested for street drugs only once a year. Last year, a report by HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the league’s players use marijuana.
“They’re aware that probably over half of their players smoke weed. They’ve been doing it since they were teenagers. The fact that they’ve been doing it that whole time and still made it to the NFL and are able to satisfy the demands of very, very strict employers on a daily basis means that their marijuana use is in check,” Jackson said, per the AP. “Marijuana is not a problem in their lives.”