- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2016

The National Football League needs to tackle the topic of marijuana and remove it from its list of banned substances, a group of doctors backed by former and current NFL players wrote in an open letter to the league Friday.

While 28 states and Washington, D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws following the results of Tuesday’s election, NFL policy continues to consider the plant to be strictly forbidden, on par with cocaine and opioids.

Amid the undeniable sea change with respect to marijuana policy evidenced most recently by the latest general election, a D.C.-based non-profit known as Doctors for Cannabis Regulation is calling on the NFL to reconsider its cannabis stance once and for all.

Current Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan is joined by eight former pro-NFL players in co-signing Friday’s open letter calling for the league to end its prohibition on pot, including retired athletes Eben Britton, Nate Jackson, Lance Johnson, Jim McMahon, Jake Plummer, Kyle Turley and Ricky Williams, a Heisman Trophy winner and former Baltimore Ravens running back.

“Decades of data establish beyond a doubt that banning cannabis does little to curb its use,” the letter says. “Over the years, your arenas have only solidified this finding. Despite its prohibition, NFL players can easily access cannabis, with some players estimating that 60 percent of their teammates are regular consumers. No punitive sanctions, however severe, have been able to stop that.”

“So instead of fining and suspending NFL players season after season, consider the success we’ve had in reducing teen alcohol and tobacco use rates, which have fallen significantly over the last generation,” the letter continues.  “Honest education and sensible regulation go a long way toward promoting healthy behaviors.”

No fewer than 19 NFL players have been suspended this year for violating the league’s anti-pot policy, the letter states, while medical marijuana is legally allowed in states where 22 different teams have home games. All the while, according to the letter, football players are prescribed painkillers for their routine aches and pains, despite research suggesting NFL athletes are four times more likely than the general population to develop addictions.

“I’m concerned about my health. I’m going on year seven playing in the NFL, and I think we need to know what the options are when it comes to taking care of our bodies,” Mr. Morgan told CNN this week.

“Rather than concerning itself with the mere use of cannabis, we believe the Policy could more effectively focus on misuse of the drug,” reads the letter signed by the sports stars. “Your staff’s time and resources could be well spent on preventative education and legitimate substance abuse interventions — the policies already in place for alcohol.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that changing the league’s policies on marijuana was “not something that we’re actively considering.”
“Our doctors are always evaluating that. If they see they can improve our policies or what we can do better to protect our players or help our players, we’ll look at it,” he said at the time.

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