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The NFL and Big Companies are Changing Their Thinking on Marijuana

The NFL is Providing Funds for a Marijuana Study Related to Injured Athlete Use

The National Football League’s (NFL) Pain Management Committee along with the NFL Players Association announced they’d be providing $1 million to help fund research of cannabinoids for pain management, last week.

This step represents further movement in the NFL’s stance toward exploring the use of marijuana products by professional football players. According to the NFL website, some players have maintained that it is safer for them to use marijuana to treat pain than to take prescription medication.


Pivot on Thinking

In the past, the NFL would suspend players if they tested positive for using cannabis products multiple times. Last year’s collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union ended this policy. Now the NFL is determined to learn more about how safe marijuana and CBD are and whether they provide pain relief, especially if they can be a potential alternative to opioids.

The league expects to fund up to five grants to winners of an RFP process.  Dr. Kevin Hill, who is the co-chair of the NFL’s Pain Management Committee, and Director of Addiction Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is also the author of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World's Most Popular Weed. Hill wants to be cautious.  According to the NFL, he believes that right now, the level of interest in the use of medical marijuana far exceeds the level of evidence available.

Dr. Hill said that the committee had heard mixed results from players about using marijuana to treat pain. Hill said that there is some indication that using medical marijuana and CBD to treat pain may be riskier than most people realize and that the doses necessary to address pain may create risk for liver toxicity and interactions with other medications.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, said "There is a need for better information, better science," Sills wants it clear that using cannabis and CBD to treat pain impact performance in elite athletes is beneficial. The goal of funding this research is to provide more informed guidance before allowing or disallowing any particular treatment related to CBD or other cannabinoids.



The NFL announcement to provide funding for studies into the true impact, benefits, and drawbacks of cannabis use by its players is a high-profile announcement within the cannabis industry. Regardless of the outcome of the studies, the NFL’s interest is a noticeable pivot in direction and can be perceived as a nod to the legitimacy of cannabis products for pain management.

In a related announcement this month, Amazon stated they will no longer test most job applicants for marijuana use. This growing trend toward legitimizing the once-taboo plant bodes well for cannabis companies in their uphill climb toward a more widespread embrace of their products.

Suggested Reading:

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Will Federal Law Regarding Cannabis be Changed?

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The Future of Cannabis Crosses Many Industries


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