NFL commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a strong statement against marijuana use Friday, telling ESPN radio that the league sees no medical benefits and adding that “it may not be healthy for the players long-term.”
Goodell’s comments, made in an interview with ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, were consistent with his previous stances. But they came amid a federal lawsuit filed by more than 1,800 former players who say they suffered long-term health problems because of improper and deceptive prescription drug-distribution practices by NFL teams.
Advocates have suggested marijuana could be a healthier way to manage pain than prescription painkillers. Goodell, however, reiterated the league is following advice from independent medical advisors who have not recommended marijuana use for medical uses.
“[W]e’ve been studying that through our advisors,” Goodell said. “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.
Goodell did add that “medical marijuana is something that is evolving, and that’s something that at some point the medical advisors may come to us and say, ‘This is something you should consider.'”
A total of 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Seven states allow for recreational use, but the NFL still bans its use and disciplines players when random tests show 35 ng/mL in their system, according to its policy and program on substances of abuse.
Goodell’s comments Friday morning suggest the league has no plans to reconsider that stance.
“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players?
“Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. 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 going to be something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”
ESPN’s John Barr contributed to this story.