NBA and NFL Under Fire for Hypocritical Policies on Medical Marijuana

NBA and NFL Under Fire for Hypocritical Policies on Medical Marijuana

Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, is in the headlines this week after publically admitting to using marijuana for pain relief following two back surgeries. Kerr's comments on medical marijuana add life to a debate that the NBA and NFL don't seem to want to have right now. Both leagues forbid athletes from using marijuana, even if it is for medicinal purposes. Now, as medical marijuana is becoming legal in more states, there is a growing number of critics making a strong case for the NBA and NFL to repeal their policies.

Chronic pain is common among athletes who suffer a variety of painful injuries playing their sports. In his admission to using medical marijuana, Kerr wonders why the NBA is fine with players using highly-addictive drugs, such as Vicodin, to treat their pain when marijuana provides a less addictive alternative that isn't as bad for the body. Kerr calls on the NBA to pay closer attention to the research and science on medical marijuana. 

Kerr, who is as high profile as a coach can get, isn't the only one criticizing major sports leagues for hypocritical policies concerning marijuana. In an article for Forbes magazine, Roger Groves, a Professor and Director of Business Law Program at Florida Coastal School of Law, writes a scathing critique of both the NBA and the NFL for refusing to consider medical science and being self-interested. Groves is particularly puzzled as to why the NBA and NFL are ignoring scientific research on cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. As Groves explains, CBD products can provide athletes with pain relief without the feeling of being "high." Groves says that it is possible for the leagues to allow CBD usage while continuing to ban THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. Ultimately, Groves believes the refusal of the NBA and NFL to allow medical marijuana stems from a fear that players will start self-medicating with marijuana and damage the leagues' reputations, which in turn will impact the bottom lines for attendance and TV ratings. 

Medical marijuana proponents point to the NFL's recent 10-game suspension of Seantrel Henderson, an offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, as the perfect example for how unfair marijuana policies in professional sports are. Henderson suffers from Crohn's disease, a debilitating condition of the intestinal tract, and recently underwent two surgeries that caused him to lose a considerable amount of weight. Medical marijuana is often preferred by Crohn's patients, such as Henderson, as an alternative to taking steroids to treat the disease. The harshness of Henderson's suspension is because this is the second time he has violated the NFL's substance policies. Henderson was suspended for four games earlier this season for testing positive for marijuana. 

As laws and public opinions concerning marijuana continue to change, it will be interesting to see how much longer the NBA and NFL will be able to hold their hardline stances on using any form of cannabinoid. As for now, both the NBA and NFL are intent on ignoring a growing amount of medical science.