The National Football League (NFL) announced Monday it will create two new medical committees, one of which will explore different methods of pain management that could include the use of cannabis.
The NFL will create the Joint Pain Management Committee with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to form “uniform standards” for pain management policies and the use of prescription medication by NFL players, as well as “conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies,” according to a league statement.
A Prescription Drug Monitoring Program will also be created that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians, and every team will be required to appoint a Pain Management Specialist before the 2019 season.
A Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee was also announced.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said that the committee’s research will include cannabis, cannabinoids, and CBD.
“We want to explore all of the strategies that help a player deal with acute and chronic pain,” Sills told ESPN. “Some of those efforts require medication, some don’t.”
“With regard to marijuana, certainly there’s a lot of discussion about not only cannabis but cannabinoid compounds, CBD, and it’s something that health care providers are exploring outside of football. That type of research will certainly be part of the mission of this committee and this program.”
The NFL exploring cannabis as treatment is significant considering the league’s typical stiff stance towards the drug, even as players have advocated for it and it has been legalized both medically and recreationally in numerous states.
The new research could be a signal that the NFL may end its ban on cannabis use for players soon.
Currently, the NFL can suspend players for cannabis use after two positive drug tests.
A suspension was handed to former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving earlier in the year for medical cannabis use. Irving, who has since retired from the NFL, said that cannabis use is common in the league, with up to 80 percent or higher of players doing it.
Retired Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe has urged the NFL to ease its restrictions on cannabis.
“It’s time for the NFL to change its archaic standards to better protect its players,” he says on his website. “For too long, I’ve watched my teammates and good friends battle with opioid addiction and leave the game with a long road still ahead; it’s time to make a change.”
Monroe is a partner at cannabis company Green Thumb Industries.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said in the past that the NFL would only consider cannabis use for pain management if it was considered valid by scientific and medical experts.
The NFL and its union will create a new collective bargaining agreement at the start of the 2021 season, which is likely when medical cannabis use would be allowed if the league decides to do so.