Part 2: Should the NFL Stop Testing Players for Marijuana?

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Due to the nation's exploding opioid epidemic, Eugene Monroe's quest to steer NFL players away from widespread use of painkillers and possible opioid addiction continues to receive greater and greater attention. And as referenced last week in Part I on this topic, publicly confronting the most popular sports enterprise in America -- from within, as a current player  -- will surely get you noticed.

As will calling the NFL's chief executive a liar.

"It's a shame that Roger Goodell would tell fans there's no medical vs. recreational distinction," the Baltimore Ravens tackle posted on Twitter in March, referring to marijuana use. "If I'm a fan, I'm pissed at the time I wasted listening to Goodell lie to me at the Super Bowl. As a player I sure am."

At around the same time Monroe was just as direct elsewhere online, posting this statement (in the blue box below) in large type at the very top of his newly-created website:

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(CTE is the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is being found in deceased NFL players who suffered significant cognitive decline as a result of repeated blows to the head.)

While Monroe is seeking medical answers through studies he's helping fund, his current conclusion that pot smoking is less dangerous for treating injuries than swallowing potentially-addictive pain killers comes from stories he's heard from other players, both former and current. So while the 6-foot-5, 300-pound tackle is working off the only information he has, unfortunately there's no scientific basis that the NFL can use in which to act the way he wants.

With both marijuana use, and opioid addiction stemming from injury, simultaneously becoming more widespread in the U.S., when you think about it it's not all that surprising that someone would advocate for the former trend to address the ills of the latter. Especially when ex-NFL players, like Nate Jackson of the Denver Broncos and punter Chris Kluwe, have been speaking up about how pot smoking helped them make it through the season, or how it allowed them to adjust to their compromised physical state after leaving the game for good.

"As the season wore on, my body would start to break down. I was in a lot of pain," said Jackson, speaking to HBO's Real Sports in 2014. "It offers relief; I don't know exactly why. But it doesn't hurt as much."

Cannabis via Shutterstock Cannabis via Shutterstock

Personal accounts like that are obviously fueling Monroe's mission. And when not knowing "exactly why" pot helps pain relief, through the lens of science we should consider the placebo effect as an explanation. And when we apply the accepted placebo rate of around 30 percent, whereby subjects say they derive benefit by ingesting a substance that doesn't pertain to their condition, that would address why we are hearing just some former players coming forward praising pot, and not a majority of them.

Last season, Monroe missed 10 games and the Plainfield, New Jersey native has been frequently injured since being drafted in 2009. He's played only one full season since then,  and during his career he's had first-hand exposure as to the potential dangers of painkillers.

"To know that opioids are so addictive in nature," he tweeted on April 23, "frightens me to ever take them again."

Another of Monroe's many Twitter posts directed at the NFL, declaring weed as beneficial and the league's inaction as reprehensible, was this: “Get over the 'stigma' we all know marijuana is not dangerous in any means. Even our government recognizes marijuana has medical benefits.”

Monroe clearly is aware of the nation's marijuana movement, and the drug's growing acceptance in many circles, but topical knowledge on this subject won't be enough to build a persuasive case. And one gets the sense that Monroe understands this, which is why this month he donated $80,000 to medical marijuana research at University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

"We're doing two studies to start," researcher Marcel Bonn-Miller of Penn's Perelman School of Medicine told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We'll be examining both current and retired NFL players to understand the impact of cannabis or cannabinoid use on recovering from injury."

What do you think about Monroe's mission? Post your opinion below.