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NFL backs league VP Jeff Miller's CTE comments
1:60 | NFL
NFL backs league VP Jeff Miller's CTE comments
Tuesday March 15th, 2016

The discussions about the use of marijuana as a form of medicine for NFL players has been going on for a while, and the NFL has declined to update its view that makes marijuana a banned substance under any circumstances, even in the face of fairly copious research. On Tuesday morning, Baltimore Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe blew that discussion wide open in an unexpected, multi-tweet barrage. 

"This is not about marijuana," Monroe tweeted. "It’s about a more sensible approach to health care and research so we can protect the game and its players!"

And then, a whole lot more:

People all over the country are being HEALED through use of CBD products. Each week during the season NFL teams embrace families of very sick children whom are fighting for their lives. Let’s fund CBD research, as it is continually proven to have a real impact on the lives of those children and their families. 

Some of their symptoms also mimic those NFL players experience. Chronic pain. Traumatic brain injury. With this admittance [Monroe was referring to the league’s admission of a link between football and CTE after decades of denial], let’s be proactive. Let’s research how cannabinoids may help curb traumatic brain injury. If you’re a player and you see this, you better stand up. It’s about damn time. I’m not here advocating smoking weed for recreational purposes. However, smoking weed just may protect your brain. Get over the "stigma" we all know marijuana is not dangerous in any means.

Even our government recognizes marijuana has medical benefits. It’s a shame that Roger Goodell would tell or fans there’s no medical vs recreational distinction. Marijuana is legal is some form whether medical or recreational in each super bowl winners state since 2012. Even Baltimore, with the medical program coming online improving health, wellness and saving lives later this year. 

Concerns about performance? Now that people aren’t AFRAID to speak out, we know our top performing athletes openly admit their use and marijuana’s benefits. Let’s do some #RESEARCH

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. We all love the game! Let’s do some #research to protect the players who make it great. If 100 players gave "1,000 for research. Or 200 gave "500, We can get Realm of Caring’s initiative in conjunction with John Hopkins U started. I’m putting a $10,000 dent in it myself. And more if nobody steps up! Fellas, it’s not a lot. Many of you will triple that expense this weekend in Miami. Let’s put our hard earned money towards our health and wellness futures. And that goes for anyone. This isn’t just about athletes. This #research can be profound for everyone.

I’m not here advocating smoking weed for recreational purposes. However, smoking weed just may protect your brain. Get over the "stigma" we all know marijuana is not dangerous in any means.

Even our government recognizes marijuana has medical benefits. It’s a shame that Roger Goodell would tell or fans there’s no medical vs recreational distinction. Marijuana is legal is some form whether medical or recreational in each super bowl winners state since 2012. Even Baltimore, with the medical program coming online improving health, wellness and saving lives later this year. 
Concerns about performance? Now that people aren’t AFRAID to speak out, we know our top performing athletes openly admit their use and marijuana’s benefits. Let’s do some #RESEARCH

Clearly, Monroe is a man with a lot on his mind, and I reached out to him about it. In a long and wide-ranging conversation, he spoke with me about his involvement in the subject of medicinal marijuana, how he was inspired to think more about it after former teammate Ebon Britton was helped by it, and how he came to know about the Realm of Caring initiative through his friend and ex-linemate. 

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One thing’s for sure: No matter when you stand on the subject of marijuana in a general sense, it’s hard to think of it the same way when you talk with current players like Monroe, or former players who are allowed to use marijuana medicinally, about the specific health benefits. Monroe truly believes in this cause, and that’s why he is, as far as I know, the current NFL player willing to say by far the most on the subject. And given his status as a former first-round pick and a highly visible player, it’s pretty clear that his voice will be heard. 

Doug Farrar: I wanted to start with the thought process behind your series of tweets today, because it’s clearly something that’s been on your mind for a while. Where did this come from? 

Eugene Monroe: Yeah, and I don’t believe that it’s really anything new. The things I’ve said are pretty common knowledge at this point, and really, the focus behind what I’m saying is really about researching marijuana, and finding a way for it to be a viable solution for some of the problems we have. Already, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that there are quite a few benefits, but now that we may be able to take a closer look at this scientifically, I think it’s responsible for us to do so.

DF: You have said that you know there are guys in the NFL who use marijuana in a medical sense. Would you feel comfortable guessing a percentage of the players you know who do so?

EM: I don’t think that guessing a percentage of people who use marijuana in the NFL does us any good, and the message I’m getting across doesn’t really focus on players who may smoke marijuana for whatever reason. Very simply, the message is to pay attention, and if you have the means to fund research into a substance that we know is a lot less dangerous than many of the substances that are consumed, and the reasons players are prescribed various pharmaceuticals, whether it’s pain pills or anti-inflammatories or what have you, we do know that cannabis is safer than a lot of those options, and provides a lot of the same benefits without the same detriments that these other substances have. 

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SI: In the piece I wrote that I sent you, there are two studies on cannabis, and its effectiveness as a pain management tool and potential help in the area of head trauma. Are you familiar with these studies, and other research like this? Are a lot of players familiar with this research, and if so, is there a kind of bafflement among players that the league hasn’t been more proactive about cannabis as a solution to a lot of these issues?

EM: I’m not sure any current player has openly spoken about marijuana, but in terms of the knowledge base around the league, I’m not certain how much players know. But we’re at a point now where we should be educating people about marijuana, and the benefits that it may have. 

DF: I want to read you a quote from a question I asked Roger Goodell at the Super Bowl 50 state of the league press conference. I said, "To be a bit more specific on the marijuana question, you said two years ago that if there was more research done for medical marijuana for players, you would consider approving it. There has been a lot of research in the last couple years. Players like Jim McMahon and Kyle Turley have talked about how it has helped them. Where does the league stand on the issue of medical marijuana for players and ex-players?"

Goodell’s response: “I don’t distinguish between the medical marijuana and marijuana issue in the context of my previous answer. Our medical professionals look at that. That is exactly what we talked to them about. I would assume that it would be used in a medical circumstance or if it is even recreational, our medical professionals look at it in both ways and determine whether they think it is in the best interest to do that. Yes, I agree there have been changes, but not significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view. Until they do, then I don’t expect that we will change our view.” 

My thought then was, how can a league that throws painkillers around like candy be so cautious about this? 

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EM: Well, look. It’s a huge problem in our country, and around the world. Marijuana is something that was made illegal without any scientific basis, so we now have tons of people who view it in a negative light, for no scientific reason. And there have been significant changes—the day the article came out on CNN [in which Monroe spoke about this subject], I spoke with a woman I didn’t know, and she was expressing her support. She has a child who has had multiple seizures—I mean, seizing every single day—and she’s been seizure-free since she started taking CBD drops, which are not getting her child high, or in an altered state of mind. But it’s perfectly okay for NFL players to be prescribed opiates that definitely get you high, and we have people in our country chasing them in the streets, and turning to harder drugs when they can no longer afford or access those opiates. Just because you’re an athlete, you’re not immune to those issues. And there’s the same percentage chance you’ll get addicted to those pills as someone who’s not a player, and I’d imagine that some of that use, even if it’s prescribed, could be abused as well. I think we need to take a serious listen to the thousands of families who have been positively affected by marijuana legislation -- people who are at the ends of all their medical options, and it’s essentially saving their lives. 

DF: I assume you’re familiar with the stories of former NFL players like Jim McMahon and Kyle Turley, who were once addicted to painkillers from their days in the pros. Both McMahon and Turley have said that not only did marijuana allow them to kick those addictions, but it also brought them back from the verge of some really dark depressions and suicidal thoughts. 

EM: Absolutely. I’m familiar with those stories, and many more. You’ll find stories like that, and more players who played come out and speak about it. The Realm of Caring has started a campaign, some of which I’ve been promoting, because people are finding benefits all over the place in terms of how cannabis has been helpful for them. 

DF: I guess now’s the time for the million-dollar question: Do you use cannabis in any form, and if so, how has it helped you?

EM: Well, marijuana’s banned in the NFL, so I’m not able to use it. But I do see that a lot of the symptoms I have, because I play football... looking at the things players deal with emotionally. That’s a very real issue. You’ve seen in Kyle’s story and others, that it has the potential to help people mitigate some of those issues. One thing I have said publicly is that for the multitude of symptoms we face as professional athletes, it’s something that we need to take a serious look at as a viable option for athletes. The negative stigma that is so deeply ingrained among people in this country... this isn’t about advocacy for smoking pot. But smoking pot is a healthier alternative than the 5:00 happy hour after work. Or the drinks you may have at a fundraiser, whether it’s an NFL fundraiser, or someone on the team is throwing a charity event, and there are drinks involved with that. In any scenario, marijuana has been proven to be a much less dangerous substance than many others that are socially acceptable. I’m not saying that marijuana should be used over anything else; I’m just saying that it’s time to look into the research, and see about the benefits it can have for our athletes. 

DF: Without naming names, are you familiar with players who have used marijuana exclusively for its medical benefits and seen a difference? 

EM: I’ll say that I do know NFL players who use marijuana for various reasons, whether it’s to calm anxiety when there’s a big challenge ahead, or if they’re dealing with chronic pain issues. And when I say they consume marijuana, I’m not saying these are guys sitting around smoking pot, which they may very well be. but there’s a whole component of marijuana called CBD which is non-psychoactive, and doesn’t alter your state of mind. You can consume that, and you’re able to operate at full capacity. This isn’t about NFL players, either—this is about our entire country. People getting all kinds of results from this one plant, for many different reasons. 

DF: If you had five minutes to express your views on this to Roger Goodell and the owners of the league, what would you say to them?

EM: I haven’t had a conversation with any owners on this, but it goes beyond the owners’ views on marijuana or anybody’s viewpoints on marijuana. Because we know it’s a safer alternative to what’s being done right now. The story told to Roger Goodell would be no different than the narrative from one of our [military] veterans who’s come back from some harsh situations, and experiencing PTSD or injuries, and they find marijuana to be a viable solution, allowing them to live a more normal and healthy life. I’m not sitting here saying that I smoke marijuana. I understand that it’s banned in my league. But what I am saying is that you need to take a serious look at removing it from the banned substance list. Because it’s the responsible thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the scientifically correct thing to do.

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