NFL Star Eugene Monroe Becomes Medical Marijuana Advocate For League

By McCarton Ackerman 05/17/16

The offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens says that cannabis is a safer, less addictive alternative to opioid pain medication.

Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens
Courtesy of Eugene Monroe

Baltimore Ravens star Eugene Monroe has become the first active NFL player to advocate for marijuana use, urging the league to allow players to use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain instead of prescription opioids.

The New York Times reported that Monroe, who said he does not personally use marijuana, has called upon the league to stop testing players for marijuana. He also previously criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a series of tweets last March, expressing disappointment that he “would tell our fans there’s no medical vs. recreational distinction.” In recent weeks, Monroe has even launched a website about using marijuana for pain management.

“We now know that these drugs are not as safe as doctors thought, causing higher rates of addiction, causing death all around our country,” he said. “We have cannabis, which is far healthier, far less addictive and, quite frankly, can be better in managing pain.”

Monroe has even literally put his money where his mouth is. He donated $80,000 last week to Realm of Caring, a Colorado-based advocacy group that is helping the effects of medical marijuana on traumatic brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease often linked to pro football players since it is caused by repeated hits to the head. He also previously donated $10,000 to medical marijuana research and encouraged other players to match his gift.

Although retired NFL players like Kyle Turley and Ricky Williams have also spoken about the benefits of marijuana, Monroe is a unique case, in that he faces potential ramifications from league officials for his comments. He’s even sparked divide among his own team. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said that he “respects Eugene a lot and I think all he asked for is more studying on the subject,” but Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted that “he does not speak for the organization.”

Goodell said that he is continuing to have the league’s medical advisors examine research on the subject, but there currently have not been “significant enough changes that our medical personnel have changed their view.” Any revised stances that the NFL makes on banned substance would also still have to be reviewed by the NFL Players Association.

The current marijuana testing policy in the NFL is that any player can be randomly tested during training camps between April 20 and Aug. 9, but won’t be tested again that year if they don’t record a positive result. A first offense would result in being referred to the league’s substance abuse program, with incremental punishments maxing out at a one-year ban for the sixth offense. Despite the clear guidelines, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon missed the 2015 season due to his marijuana use.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.