The National Football League and league player’s union are creating a Joint Pain Management Committee that will include cannabis and cannabinoids as part of its research into pain management and alternative therapies. Allen Sills, the chief medical officer of the NFL, said that while the committee’s research “will include cannabis, cannabinoids and CBD … the goal is “much broader and bigger than [cannabis].”
“The goal of this effort is well beyond marijuana,” Sills said in an NFL.com report. “It’s to look at pain treatment.”
The committee will include medical experts appointed by the league and the NFL Players Union and will also investigate the use of prescription medications by players; those medications will be monitored by the newly-formed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program which will send reports to the committee. Teams will also be required to hire a pain management specialist prior to the start of the 2019 season.
In March, it was reported that the league was willing to make “major concessions” regarding its cannabis policy during the next collective bargaining session with players. Last year, free agent running back Mike James’ request for a therapeutic exemption to use cannabis was rejected by league officials; however, James was the first active player to seek such an exemption.
The groundwork for the joint committee was laid in 2017 when league officials told the NFLPA that they would be willing to work with the union on medical cannabis research for pain management. The union has pushed for relaxed cannabis use policies for players and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated that cannabis policy would be “one of the subjects in the collective bargaining process.”
In 2014, the NFL raised its THC threshold for a positive test from 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood to 35 nanograms per milliliter.