The NFL Doesn’t Like Medical Cannabis

On Sunday, February 3, the Super Bowl will be played between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, two teams hailing from states (California and Massachusetts) with regulated medical/recreational cannabis programs.

One hundred million will watch, and while I won’t be one of them, here’s to a really big game between many really big players, with a really big halftime show by the Dollar Tree version of a rock band.

One hundred million viewers is a rare thing, and CBS and the NFL make the most of that, charging more than $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime.

During the broadcast, you’ll see plenty of commercials: Pepsi has confirmed an ad, summer blockbuster movies will roll out their trailers, and don’t forget Budweiser—those mighty and majestic Clydesdales need the work.

What you won’t see this Super Bowl is a commercial about the benefits of medical cannabis.

Acreage Holdings (yes, the multi-state cannabis conglomerate that had John Boehner join their board last year) pitched CBS on a 30-second spot that would focus on the benefits of medical cannabis.

The ad was to feature three subjects who’d benefitted from medical cannabis—a veteran, a little girl with epilepsy, and someone addicted to opioids—but CBS felt they didn’t meet their high standards for not offending the hothouse-orchid, pearl-clutching viewers of a game where grown men inflict severe bodily harm on one another.

Burn them! Them be weed witches!

Here’s the ad that’s not running:

CBS issued a statement which explained their rejection of the spot:

“Under our broadcast standards, we do not currently accept cannabis-related advertising.”

Any network that has vomited up the Stage 4 cancer equivalent of sitcoms—The Big Bang Theory, which no amount of weed can make funny—is on thin ice regarding “broadcast standards.”

But the NFL has a say in what airs, too, and chances are good that the organization, whose team owners sometimes seem to have the mentalities of plantation owners, had a big part to play in the rejection.

The Super Bowl is being hosted this year in Atlanta by Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons football team.

Blank told CBS News that as far as letting NFL players use medical cannabis, “I probably would not be in favor of it because I am concerned about the gateway affect that it has on other drugs.” (Christ—it’s 2019, and the “gateway drug” thing, again?)

Doctors may not agree on the dangers of cannabis, but they do agree that 300-pound men smashing into one another poses major health risks.

Last year, former NFL tight end told the Bleacher Report that in his estimation 89 percent of NFL players use cannabis to deal with the aches and intense pains that come with playing professional football.

“There are times of the year where your body just hurts so bad,” Bennett said. “You don’t want to be popping pills all the time. There are anti-inflammatory drugs you take so long that they start to eat at your liver, kidneys and things like that. A human made that. God made weed.”

Some of the blows can lead to a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

How common is CTE? In 2017, a researcher published findings in JAMA, showing that of the 111 NFL player brains she studied post mortem, 110 had CTE.

It’s not just the NFL—the Daily News reported on a joint study between the VA and Boston University in which “the brains of 177 American football players were examined after having been donated to science. 99 percent of the brains of NFL players showed signs of CTE, as did 87 percent of Canadian pro players, 64 percent of semi-pro, 91 percent of college, and 21 percent of high schoolers.”

CTE is a recently discovered condition, and much more research is needed, but preliminary studies have shown that cannabis can play a role in treating the head injuries which are believed to cause CTE. It can increase blood flow to damaged areas of the brain, as well as being a neuroprotectant.

Cannabis use, including medical cannabis, is prohibited by the NFL, with repeat offenders facing penalties including expulsion from the league.

It’s saying something that the league won’t allow the people making them their collective billions to use a plant that could keep them from suffering in the short term, and possibly dying in the long term. And it seems the NFL would also seem to prefer that 100 million viewers not be exposed to the idea of cannabis medicine either.

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies and His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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