Bennett, who played 10 seasons for five teams, said players are turning to marijuana as a natural alternative to prescription painkillers.
“There’s medical marijuana,” Bennett said. “So it’s like, there’s times of the year where your body just hurts so bad, that you don’t want to just be popping pills all the time. … It ruins your liver. There’s a lot of these anti-inflammatories that you take for so long that, like, it starts to eat at your liver or kidneys and things like that. And a human made that. God made weed.”
Marijuana use, especially its use to combat chronic pain as compared with prescription painkillers, has become a contentious subject between the league and its players. In July, the NFL reached out to the players’ union about possibly joining forces to study the use of marijuana to combat chronic pain. The union, according to the MMQB’s Peter King, in turn asked the NFL for comprehensive data on how teams are distributing prescription painkillers to players, and things stalemated from there.
Last year, sealed court documents reviewed by The Washington Post from a federal lawsuit filed by 1,800 former NFL players revealed that teams violated federal laws governing prescription drugs, disregarded guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration on how to store, track, transport and distribute controlled substances, and plied their players with powerful painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
Union chief DeMaurice Smith also has told The Post that the players would like the league to take a “less punitive” approach to recreational marijuana use by players. The drug is banned by the NFL, with escalating punishments for each positive test, though marijuana use is treated more leniently than the use of other drugs.
Considering how easy it is for players to get around the league’s recreational drug-testing policy, Bennett might be lowballing his estimate. Players without a positive test on their record are tested only once per year, with league rules mandating it take place between April and August, usually after they report to training camp.
“If a player passes his one test, he won’t be tested again until the next April-August,” Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote in April 2015, after it was revealed that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was a heavy user of marijuana. “One former medical personnel called it an ‘intelligence test, because it’s once a year, and you know it’s coming.’ One agent quipped that players sometimes will throw ‘smoking parties’ as soon as their testing is complete.”
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