By Michael Hill
“There was no regularity to my use,” explained retired NFL offensive lineman Todd Herremans.
Herremans is, for the first time, talking publicly about smoking marijuana during his playing days — an 11-year-career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts.
He said, “Here and there if the season got really bad or I got really sore then I would use it sometimes for pain management. But, most of the time I would use to just kind of wind down and help me fall asleep at night.”
The NFL knew Herremans was a marijuana user. He tested positive three times and went through the league’s treatment and monitoring program. He’s among a growing list of retired players supporting the Doctors for Cannabis Regulation campaign to have the NFL accept marijuana for medical treatment as an alternative to opioids which he took after surgeries and injuries.
“I just kind of used it until I could tough it out myself. I saw a lot of friends of mine throughout the years that I played that would end up with opiate addictions and it was kind of a scary thing,” Herremans said.
Founder of the Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Dr. David Nathan, said, “That dependence as we know just among prescription opioids leads to 28,000 overdose deaths every year in the United States.”
Last month, Nathan sent a letter to the NFL, urging it to treat cannabis like alcohol, consider medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain management and to support promising research into potential neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids.
The letter reads, “Within the medical community, cannabis is consistently regarded as less toxic, less addictive and less harmful than many legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco or prescription opioid medications.”
The NFL has pledged $100 million to look at anything and everything to protect its players. The doctors say, “cannabis deserves the serious attention of your medical staff as a viable pain management alternative and potential neuroprotectant.”
“A lot more research needs to be done. I think that the NFL, with all of its resources should certainly be putting some of those resources into alternatives for opioids for pain. I think that that’s a moral obligation on the part of the NFL,” Nathan said. “I don’t believe that any of us at this point really think that marijuana is a drug without some medical use.”
NFL.com reports a handful of NFL team owners have signaled they favor the league reconsidering its policy for both medical and recreational marijuana use and decriminalizing it to limit league suspensions. Earlier this year, the commissioner said he didn’t see a change in the league’s policy in the short term.
Last month, the NFL Players Association made a major announcement that it was forming a committee to study the issue of cannabis as a pain management tool.
“I tend to be more of a natural-minded person. Just because Big Pharma tells me it’s going to solve my problem, I don’t believe them necessarily,” said Herremans.
“As a social justice and as a public health matter, cannabis should never have been made illegal in the first place. We’re trying to right a wrong that goes way back. And the NFL’s ban on marijuana simply reflects the national prohibition that’s been in place since 1937,” said Nathan.
Doctors for Cannabis Regulation says it does not support the personal use of cannabis but the medicinal benefits are undeniable. While some medical societies and doctors still argue marijuana use has many health risks, both sides agree — the issue needs more study.