Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson spoke at a marijuana business conference yesterday and said the league should allow medical marijuana as a means to help players deal with physical pain, psychological pain and head injuries—all which come with the sport.
Jackson was speaking at the Cannabis Business Executives Breakfast that kicked off a three-day conference called “Sports, Meds and Money.” He told the crowd that he believes the NFL will have no choice but to remove marijuana from its lists of banned substances in the near future. Jackson explained that he stayed away from prescription painkillers as much as he could during his six-year career. As a replacement, he self-medicated with marijuana, all with the intention of retiring from the NFL addicted to prescription drugs.
Jackson said, “It kept my brain clean. I feel like I exited the game with my mind intact. And I credit that to marijuana in a lot of ways and not getting hooked on these pain pills that are recklessly distributed in the league when a guy gets an injury.”
Jackson also made it clear that he believe the NFL knows its players use marijuana, saying, “They’re aware that probably over half of their players smoke weed. They’ve been doing it since they were teenagers. The fact that they’ve been doing it that whole time and still made it to the NFL and are able to satisfy the demands of very, very strict employers on a daily basis means that their marijuana use is in check. Marijuana is not a problem in their lives.”
Jackson went on to explain that the real problem is what’s happening on the field, with players “smashing their skulls over and over and over again.” He went on to say that a bigger issue is the acceptance of the vicious violence by the fans and the media.
He said, “…as long as we as fans or the media love this game and want this game to continue and want our players to play hard, we have to open up our minds and be a little bit more compassionate about how we approach their health care.”
Jackson continued, “…it’s a good public relations move for the NFL to do this because they have a lot of former players who are hurting, who have a lot of cognitive issues, who have orthopedic issues, who have psychological problems and it seems that marijuana helps with all of these things. So, the NFL has taken some PR hits in the last year over a few things, and I think they’ll be eager to get behind something like this.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello was asked about the league’s stance on marijuana. He told The Associated Press: “At this time, the medical advisers to our drug program tell us that there is no need for medical marijuana to be prescribed to an NFL player. The league has used experts on substance abuse disorders and addiction and we ask them to make recommendations and to date they haven’t recommended any change.” It also said there’s “other medications doctors can use for effective treatment of pain. If the science shows it and there is a rigorous process in place to determine that the only drug that could help is medical marijuana, then we would consider allowing it in necessary cases.”
Jackson thinks the last sentence of that statement is the most promising, but people shouldn’t keep their hopes up about the league completely accepting marijuana. He said, “I don’t ever think the league will come out with like a marijuana banner. They’re never going to say, ‘Hey, marijuana, it’s great for everyone!’ But I think what they will do is remove it from the banned substances list and stop punishing people for it. It actually keeps it in the news more when it is a banned substance than if it weren’t. Josh Gordon’s in the news for weed. These other guys are in the news for weed. That wouldn’t happen anymore.”
Jackson also said he never used marijuana before games or practices, but it did help him recover afterward. It also didn’t affect his performance. In fact, he claims it helped because he would visualize play well while he was high and he says “that carried over to when I was sober.”
Jackson goes as far to say that he considers it a “performance-inspiring drug.” He explained, “Michael Phelps is the best swimmer that the Earth has ever produced by far. And he smokes weed,” Jackson said. “That should tell us something.”