NFL Extends Offer to Work With Union to Study Medical Marijuana
As former NFL player sues Jeff Sessions over pot's status
In a letter to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the NFL offered to team up to study the potential of marijuana as a pain management tool for players. Marijuana use, for any purpose, is currently prohibited by the league. 
The NFLPA is in the midst of conducting its own marijuana study, and reportedly has yet to respond to the NFL’s offer.
Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, said:
“We look forward to working with the Players Association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players.”
Someone with knowledge of the matter said the NFL wrote to the NFLPA to ask if, considering the union’s public comments in 2017, it would be interested in cooperating on research. Potential topics for study in the letter include pain management for both chronic and acute pain.
In addition to launching its own study, the NFLPA said it is interested in further loosening the sport’s rules concerning recreational pot use by athletes.
In January 2017, DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, told The Washington Post it would propose to the league a “less punitive” approach to recreational use by players. At the moment, players are tested for marijuana, and those caught using it face potential discipline, including fines. 
Smith said at the time:
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate. I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”
Individually, the union formed a pain management committee to research marijuana as a pain management tool for players and other potential uses. Technically speaking, the committee is actually a subcommittee of the NFLPA’s Mackey-White traumatic brain injury committee.
Smith stated earlier in January:
“How do you make sure that you address any potential addiction issue? Because I’ve read the literature on both side.
How do you deal with the fact that some people are using it purely recreationally and pivoting it to … people who are using it medicinally either as a pain eradicator or a stress-coping mechanism? So what we’ve decided to do is, to the best we can, look at it as related but nonetheless separate issues. Do I expect in the near future we are going to be presenting something to our board on the first issue? Yes.”
A former NFL player is currently suing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice, and the DEA. Marvin Washington, a defensive lineman known mostly for his time with the New York Jets, and 4 other plaintiffs want cannabis to be legalized at the federal level. 
Washington is the co-founder of a company that sells hemp-based sports-performance products that contain no THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana which produces a high.
The retired athlete alleges in the lawsuit that the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug is keeping him from receiving federal grants to open a business “that would allow pro football players to use medical marijuana for pain management in lieu of more addictive opioids.”
Washington said in June of 2017 that NFL players “are fed opiates and pharmaceuticals throughout the week, from training camp until the end of season. That can be June to January. It’s not normal.”
“I think the Players Association should demand that [players] have an alternative to opiates. This is scientific-based. This is not hocus pocus. That’s where I want to see this in the very near future, players that have an alternative to opiates.”
Washington’s co-plaintiffs include an 11-year-old girl who requires medical marijuana to treat her epilepsy, and a disabled military veteran who uses cannabis to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.