After Ray Rice’s two game suspension for abusing his wife publicly, many sports fans are repulsed by the hypocrisy in the implications of the suspension. If you compare the two game ban with other recent suspensions Rice’s is arguably the least punitive.
Of the seventeen suspensions in 2014, all of them are for four games or more. Moreover, all of the seventeen suspensions are the result of failed drug tests. Up to ten of the seventeen suspensions are the result of marijuana use.
Sports fans have voiced their sarcastic frustration in the NFL with gems like “Josh Gordon has the wrong vice. Stop smoking weed and start beating women” or “Terrelle Pryor got suspended 5 games for getting free tattoos while he was in college. Brandon Browner was almost banned for life for smoking weed and Rice gets 2 games for beating a woman unconscious. Nice NFL.”
Really, fans are on to something. Marijuana is not an evil, it’s actually a godsend. Over the past decade, researchers have begun to peel the layers back on marijuana. Of the many layers, which include mind alteration, one is medicine.
Doctor Jeffrey Hergenrather insists: “In my opinion, there is no better drug for the treatment of anxiety disorders, brain trauma and post-concussion syndrome.” As athletes abuse their bodies every game, especially in the NFL, muscles swell resulting in a medical condition known as chronic inflammation. The research supports Hergenrather claims. One study conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology asserts Cannabis is a useful anti-inflammatory. Other studies have hailed Cannabidiol (CBD), a prominent compound found in marijuana, as the greatest anti-inflammatory known to man.
Marijuana is also useful in treating concussions. Hergenrather has also said “Cannabis has been shown to reactivate brain cells as well as regenerate new growth.” This sentiment is echoed throughout the medical community. Media medical correspondent Chris Kilhan asserts “CBD appears to have profound nerve-protective and brain-enhancing properties.” Harvard professor Lester Grinspoon adds “already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data.”
This brings the discussion to its most crucial idiosyncrasy. Athletes have a right to consume medicine which they and the medical community determine is a legitimate treatment for a condition. By all indications, marijuana is a legitimate treatment for concussions and other injuries related to their work environment (getting blindsided by a defensive player).
Seth Brickman, product manager for management liability at Business Risk Partners likens the NFL’s policy on marijuana use to “prohibiting a player from using marijuana is the same as prohibiting a player from using a helmet.” In many ways he’s right.
Clint Werner, a researcher of medical applications of marijuana and author of the book “Marijuana Gateway to Health” writes: “Severe head injuries automatically trigger the production of an excessive amount of neurotransmitters called glutamates. When there are too many of these chemicals in the brain, they can initiate a chain reaction of cell degradation and impairment. The cannabinoids, which we find in marijuana, work as effective antioxidants, potentially neutralizing the glutamate activity and stopping the cascade of neuronal damage that can follow.”
Since the medical community has displayed causality between nutrients found in Cannabis and a host of medical benefits, the burden of proof must be appropriated to the NFL to show how Marijuana has a negative impact.
One anonymous active NFL player, who lives in a state where medicinal marijuana is legal and whose antagonistic style of speech sounds a lot like Richard Sherman said: “A part of me always wanted to be the first player to test positive, then be able to present [Roger Goodell with] a prescription from my physician and dare him [to do something].”
In America the medical marijuana debate has been had and the public acknowledge the benefits of cannabis. In 2010 an ABC News poll found that 8 of 10 Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use. It’s time for American sports leagues to finally follow suit.