The NFL’s Million Dollar Cannabis Research

How cannabis has the potential to change the NFL's misfortunes when it comes to treating players injures.

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There was some huge news this week as the NFL announced that they would be investing $1 million USD to research the effects of cannabis.

What makes this investment so exciting is not its size — in fact, $1 million USD to perform research is a rather small amount of money, however, the importance of this announcement is the pattern it represents.

This is a pattern whereby those who were once strictly against cannabis are now not only open to the idea of people consuming cannabis — they are going one step further as to understand the actual benefits of cannabis.

What’s the purpose of this research?

The NFL’s pain management committee is researching the effects of cannabis & cannabinoids for both pain and athletic performance.

To allocate the funding, the committee is seeking proposals from investigative teams in the pain management field and will provide up to five grants in 2021 for this research to be performed later this year.

The committee previously conducted a pair of informational forums on (CBD) in 2020, and it made a request for information on alternatives to opioids for pain management last February — of which cannabis is a leading candidate.

The long journey to reach this milestone

The use of cannabis by high-performing athletes is no secret (despite the lazy stoner persona) and the NFL has been struggling with the issue that is cannabis for many years now for two primary reasons.

  1. Athletes are seeking alternatives to opioids.

  2. Athletes are seeking solutions to concussions.

American football is a very high-impact sport, and unfortunately, our bodies simply aren’t designed to sustain these impacts without a cost.

The most immediate impact of these injuries is that many players need to take painkillers such that they can continue to play the game of which having the option to consume cannabis instead of opioids is an absolute no-brainer.

The second problem that has plagued the NFL in recent times is our enhanced understanding of the long-term effects of players receiving impacts to their heads — more specifically the increased likelihood of players suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

What’s CTE, and why cannabis? 🧠

CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

In a sample of 266 deceased former amateur and professional football players, the study found that the risk of developing CTE increased by 30 percent per year played, meaning that for every 2.6 additional years of football played, the odds of developing CTE doubled

This is a huge problem for the NFL as many concerned parents are now having second thoughts about allowing their children to play football.

Today, we don’t know nearly enough to suggest that cannabis is the solution to this problem, however, with the knowledge that cannabinoids have been shown to be effective neuroprotectants (protecting our brains) — the NFL is clearly stepping up its game to learn how cannabis can help its players.

Advocacy = outcomes ✔️

This decision has not come overnight.

Considerable sacrifices have been made by players who have insisted on using cannabis despite the outdated laws that the NFL sought to impose upon them.

From Ricky Williams back in 2006 who was suspended from the NFL for consuming cannabis to Josh Gordon who received a lifetime ban from the NFL for testing positive for THC for the 5th time less than two years ago.

What happens next?

Progress is clearly being made, and even as we await the results of this research the NFL will no longer suspend players who test positive for THC.

This itself is a huge milestone for the sport, however, I foresee a day in the not-so-distant future pending the completion of this research whereby the NFL is one of the strongest advocates for athletes consuming cannabis.

How I look forward to that day.


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