As of now, the NFL has marijuana on the list of banned substances, along with things like steroids and other PEDs. One retired player—Nate Jackson—thinks they should reconsider that position.
It’s fairly clear marijuana does not help players succeed on Sundays, so the reason it is banned in the NFL is simply because it’s been illegal for so long.
The NFL just doesn’t want players using illegal drugs. It’s bad for the league’s reputation and allowing it could make the NFL look quite lenient on something police fight against every day.
From that perspective, one would assume Jackson, who used to play tight end for the Denver Broncos, would be making his argument based on the changes to drug laws in Colorado, Washington and Alaska. However, he wasn’t even fighting for overall legality. He was more referring to marijuana being used for medicinal purposes, which is allowed in even more states.
Jackson was open and frank in his opinion, revealing that he had turned to marijuana during his playing days when he needed relief from pain.
Other players used opiate painkillers, but Jackson said he did everything he could to stay off of those and use marijuana instead.
Jackson saw a lot of players around him becoming addicted to painkillers. Football is a tough sport, and injuries are common. Guys need relief just to work out in the summer, let alone to play in games or practice. When painkillers were used, Jackson saw how they could take a tremendous hold.
He wanted none of it. He wanted, as he put it, for his brain to be clean. After playing for six seasons, he says his mind does feel clean and intact, and he says his marijuana use is the reason why. He believes he would not be in such good shape for life after football if he had risked it and used potentially addictive painkillers.
Jackson also pointed out that having marijuana and other “street drugs” on the banned list doesn’t make much of a difference, since the testing only hits most players once every season. Steroid testing is more frequent.
Players are able to get around the marijuana tests and plan for them. He noted that, in his experience, most players have been using marijuana for years, and he even went so far as to say the NFL knew about most of this use and ignored it.
Not only does Jackson think the NFL should make marijuana allowable, but he said he thinks they would be happy to back such a movement, because it could counteract some of the negative PR from the last few years.
Greg Aiello, speaking on the behalf of the NFL, did not back this claim up, saying the NFL’s medical advisers have not indicated that medical marijuana was needed by the players right now.
Of course, Aiello’s statement does fit with the NFL’s policies at this time, so it was to be expected.
The NFL did leave the door open, though, saying they would consider medical marijuana if there was evidence players needed it. The league talked about bringing in experts and doing their homework, essentially, to see how beneficial and necessary it could be.
While the statements didn’t seem as full of confidence as Jackson’s, they did show that the NFL was thinking along potentially similar lines.
Of course, if it was taken off of the banned list, it would open up many other questions. For instance, would only medical marijuana be allowed? Would someone like Josh Gordon still be suspended if he used it in a non-medical fashion?
What about players in Denver and Seattle, where state laws say recreational use is legal? Could they use recreationally even though it would be illegal for players on the Lions, Patriots and other teams? What would the NFL do if more states followed Colorado and Washington’s lead and made marijuana fully legal?
Right now, the NFL doesn’t have to answer those questions, but they will crop up quickly if the policy changes.