A topic of great interest currently rests with the usage of medical marijuana in the NFL.  Currently, the official position of the NFL is that medical marijuana is overall not appropriate for players to treat pain.  The NFL bans using medical marijuana and disciplines its players when random tests show 35 nanograms per milliliter in their system or more.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that the NFL is actively working with medical advisors and “…to date, they haven’t said ‘this is a change we think you should make that is in the best interest 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.” The official policy of cannabis in the NFL in 2017 is that it remains listed along with other items in the category of substance abuse as Commissioner Goodell is insinuating ¹.

That being said, the Washington Post published yesterday a piece detailing a recent letter written by the NFL to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) requesting to work in tandem to study medicinal marijuana².  This appears a step in the right direction to clarify the concerns the NFL has about marijuana being a substance prone to abuse amongst its players should it be allowed.  When anonymously surveying the players themselves, it would seem the real concern rests with the usage of opioids and their addictive potential more than medical marijuana ³.  Certainly, a collective bargaining process between the NFL and NFLPA will help shed light on what is the best policy to have for players as a whole.

Indica MD continues to be an advocate for former players of the NFL and other professional sports leagues who have suffered concussions, often multiple, and other injuries that lead to chronic pain.  In states that have legalized medical marijuana for chronic pain purposes, that meet a specific duration of time amongst other qualifiers, headaches attributable to traumatic brain injury (TBI) would qualify one to initiate the process to seek a doctor’s recommendation or certification.

DE O’Connell, MD 

President & CEO 

Paladin MD Services


  1. NFL offers to work with players’ union on study of marijuana as pain management tool. (2017, August 01). Retrieved August 01, 2017, from http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/20217643/nfl-reaches-nflpa-study-marijuana-pain-management-tool-players
  2. Maske, M. (2017, July 31). NFL offers to work with players’ union to study marijuana for pain management. Retrieved August 01, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/07/31/nfl-offers-to-work-with-players-union-to-study-marijuana-for-pain-management/?utm_term=.e1800076b0f3
  3. Nation, N. (2016, November 02). Cannabis Confidential: NFL players weigh in on medical marijuana vs. painkillers. Retrieved August 01, 2017, from http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/17938762/nfl-players-weigh-medical-marijuana-vs-painkillers