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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says marijuana is addictive and unhealthy for players

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, April 28, 2017, 11:42 a.m.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on a radio talk show that he thinks marijuana is 'addictive' and unhealthy for players.
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on a radio talk show that he thinks marijuana is 'addictive' and unhealthy for players.

A week after a medical marijuana conference brought former football players to Pittsburgh to advocate the benefits of cannabis use in controlling pain, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell proclaimed on a sports talk show that the drug is addictive and unhealthy for players.

“It does have an addictive nature,” Goodell said Friday on the ESPN show “Mike & Mike.” “There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long term. All of those things have to be considered. And it's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren't something that is something that we'll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

Last weekend's World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo at Downtown's David L. Lawrence Convention Center brought the likes of former Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back Ricky Williams to push pro-pot agendas.

While NFL players are allowed to take heavy prescription drugs, such as opioids, for pain, marijuana remains a banned substance.

“If you get in the drug program and you get in trouble, it's so punitive,” Williams told the Tribune-Review while discussing NFL drug policies. “Players aren't getting help. They are only getting punished for something that I think we can at least make the argument is probably healthier than opioids and prescription drugs that players are taking.”

Whether marijuana is addictive has been debated among experts and users for decades.

Goodell acknowledged Friday that medical marijuana use is on the rise.

“We look at it from a medical standpoint,” Goodell said. “So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the (NFL Players Association) and the NFL, and we'll sit down and talk about that. But we've been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven't said this is a change we think you should make that's in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we're certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven't really said that.”

Dr. Bryan Doner, a co-founder of the medical marijuana consulting company Compassionate Certification Centers, helped organize last week's conference in Pittsburgh. He said he found some of Goodell's remarks hypocritical.

“We know for a fact that some of the current treatments used in treating NFL and other athletes, such as opiates and (anti-inflammatory drugs), can absolutely have undeniable and devastating long-term consequences,” Doner said. “At our recent convention, we had a number of former NFL athletes state this in no uncertain terms. If the treatment options the NFL is currently using and endorsing have known, well-documented, long-term negative consequences, is it fair or appropriate to leave those unaddressed while applying this to medical cannabis? The answer to me seems to be a very clear no, and in fact hypocritical.”

Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is now legal and will be available in 2018 in pills, oils, tinctures or ointments.

Under state law, patients — after consulting with doctors — can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if a doctor certifies that they have one of 17 qualified medical conditions, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, or via Twitter @bencschmitt.

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