With a little help from weed, Baltimore Raven Eugene Monroe is tearing through NFL hypocrisies. Last month, the Ravens' offensive tackle kicked off a campaign opposing NFL drug testing for pot, demanding the league consider using cannabinoids to treat chronic pain, and donated $80,000 to the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for medical cannabis research. In the numerous interviews Monroe has done—though not with City Paper, he was apparently too busy to talk to us, which is just a huge bummer—he points out that prescribing highly addictive opiates for injuries is common (Monroe lost most of last year's season to a shoulder injury) while cannabis is totally off the table. He has also suggested that cannabis could be a great help to players with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that comes about after repeated or particularly intense blows to the head.
In more than 50 percent of the states where NFL teams reside, medical cannabis is legal, so it isn't a cut-and-dry law-breaking concern for the league. And testing players based on "moral" grounds doesn't really parse either because the NFL regularly drags its feet with players who've committed domestic abuse and sexual assault. And if this about health, well then, football is an inarguably brutal and cruel sport that really shouldn't even exist anymore—as ongoing CTE awareness has illustrated—so the NFL's rhetoric surrounding concern for players smoking, drugging, and so on is half-assed at best. Last week Monroe went on a tweet storm challenging the league's history of "neglect[ing] its players' health in order to keep up appearances."
Monroe's stance is also very useful for the long view arguments about medical cannabis. Physical injuries sustained on the football field are closer to the injuries people get on the job or when they are exercising and so on. If football players, a much-loved, gladiatorial elite in this country, could get high without risking their careers, it could wipe out the stigma of weed far more effectively than most weed advocates who are often preaching to the choir or talking past the people they need to convince: regular-ass people who—even if they've smoked or do it semi-casually—have grown up inundated with anti-drug propaganda. And Monroe doesn't appear to give a shit about what the NFL thinks and as a result, he might really make some change. Plus, the Ravens' first round draft pick this year is Ronnie Stanley, who will probably take Monroe's position on the field, so a transition into full-stop advocate would be fortuitous for the seven-year veteran.
In an attempt to better understand where Monroe is coming from, I picked up some Jack Herer, a very popular medicinal strain, and smoked with a focus on managing physical pain rather than issues tied to anxiety, depression, and stress, which is why I usually smoke. Jack Herer—named after a noted cannabis activist (maybe one day Monroe will get his own strain)—cleanly balances a mind and body high (both are equally strong) and it doesn't compel you to think or feel too much, though it won't exactly inhibit creativity or sensitivity either, it kind of leaves it all up to you. It's a mindful strain. The more you sit inside the high, it will make you giddy, and also a bit of a drooly, sleepy, dim bulb, but it's still nothing like an oft-dread-filled opiate zone-out. In an interview with NPR, Monroe recently said that taking vicodin and oxycodone for injuries left him "loopy and out of it and not feeling like [him]self," and also "slowed [his] metabolism and...digestive system."