Both NFL and Colorado Rethinking Marijuana for Pain Management

This week I want to share two articles about the continued connection in the social consciousness of prescription opioids and medical marijuana. The first article is about a new law regarding cannabis just signed into law by the Colorado governor. The second article is about the NFL looking into allowing players to use marijuana medicinally. Below you’ll find these stories and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

Coloradans can soon get medical marijuana in place of opioids

Beginning August 2, clinicians in Colorado will now be able to recommend the use of medical marijuana as a treatment instead of opioids. Previously, medical marijuana could only be recommended for certain qualifying medical conditions—cancer, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, etc. This new law adds all conditions in which doctors would have prescribed opioids in the past, but now have the option to recommend marijuana. Supporters hope this will help in combating the nationwide opioid epidemic. All should realize how this further solidifies the public connection of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids – at least according to the law.

Mark’s Thoughts:
ICYMI—On May 23 the CO governor signed into law an explicit connection between prescription opioids and medical marijuana. “The new law adds to that list (of qualifying medical conditions) all conditions for which opioids could be prescribed to treat.” As has usually been the case, it was an anecdote (a 13-year old with epilepsy) that won support. Colorado now joins several other states that have similarly tied the two substances together (see my Jan 24 blogpost “Marijuana & Opioids“). Interestingly, a May 21 study concluded cannabidiol (CBD) “significantly reduced both craving and anxiety” (compared to placebo) for people with heroin use disorder so science may be starting to substantiate the connection. Like I’ve been saying for awhile, cannabis and opioids are linked and that connection will continue to drive the discourse. The new law goes into effect on August 2. I’m sure everyone will be watching prescription opioid trends to see how many prescribers and patients adopt this new approach.

NFL and players’ union to study potential use of marijuana for pain management

The NFL and NFL Players Association have recently decided to form two new medical committees to study the use of marijuana (among other treatment options) as pain management for its players. Currently, marijuana is on the list of banned substances for players. However, many players have urged the NFL to consider the benefits of using marijuana as a form of pain management for this violent and rigorous sport. This brings to question how they will limit players to using the drug for medical and pain management purposes only, and not recreationally, which obviously has an effect on their workplace drug policies. Where the NFL goes, other employers are likely to follow.

Mark’s Thoughts:
And another article from Denver but this is on potentially an even more influential scenario—the National Football League (NFL) and Players Association has finally decided to move forward with a clinical study on the use of medical marijuana for pain management by players. I’ve brought up this possibility as long as three years ago when they started talking about it. As an employer (teams) with a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana but with reportedly a majority of employees (players) using it, there needed to be some sort of reckoning. In my discussions around the country, most people currently not in support of medical cannabis want clinical studies to prove/disprove the claims—and they might even change their mind based on the results. Granted, the two committees aren’t exclusively focused on marijuana but it will definitely be in the mix for review of pain management options (which is telling in itself). When the US’ preeminent sports league starts taking it seriously, their conclusions will be watched carefully. Just to be clear—this isn’t only about marijuana. “The two committees being formed are a joint pain management committee and a comprehensive mental health and wellness committee…its members will study a variety of pain-management issues and strategies for players.” Opening up treatment options beyond prescription painkillers is a good thing. Check out my 9/25/14 published article entitled “The Problem of Playing Through the Pain” about the Rx opioid problem the NFL has had for awhile.

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at

Until Next Week,