The Pain Management Committee, which is a joint NFL players union and NFL’s initiative, recently released two memos to NFL teams describing its current stance on cannabidiol and its healing benefits. The Committee’s task is to provide advice to the union and the league regarding the recent developments in pain management for elite athletes.
Cannabidiol, or popularly known as CBD, is a potent compound derived from hemp, Cannabis Sativa plant. CBD is an anti-inflammatory compound that helps in reducing inflammation, muscle spasms, aches, chronic pain, and alleviate the symptoms of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Tourette.
Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive compound which means it does not produce any “high” when users smoke it or ingest it in any form. In fact, CBD helps reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and seizures in epilepsy. CBD has become a part of many people’s daily regime. While some people like to put CBD oil in their food and ingest it directly, others use it in the form of creams, topicals, ointments on the affected area to reduce pain, inflammation and boost healing.
CBD has garnered the trust of thousands if not millions of people across the world. From Canada to the United States, the United Kingdom, and South East Asia, governments are changing laws to decriminalize CBD. However the biggest “green rush” took place when the U.S. federal government decriminalized hemp, removing it from the list of controlled substances.
The Farm Act in December 2018 which legalized hemp and labeled it as an agricultural crop paved way for the hemp industry. Soon companies started rolling out hemp-derived products such as CBD oils, isolate, gummies, topicals, vape pens, etc. From online websites to brick and mortar stores, many retailers started selling CBD based products.
With the abundance of CBD products, the line between legal and illicit compounds in the consumer market started to diminish. With the CBD market expanding constantly, the black market for illicit products containing higher traces of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, also jumped.
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive drug responsible for causing hallucinations and the “high” that users experience when they smoke weed. According to the federal regulations, the maximum concentration of THC allowed per unit is 0.3% per dry weight. Concentrations higher than this are considered illegal.
Due to the lack of regulatory framework from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other enforcement agencies, it became difficult to monitor and regulate the production and sale of CBD. Nonetheless, the FDA recently issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling CBD products with higher concentrations of THC and for marketing their CBD products as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.
Many agencies are skeptical about the identification of legitimate CBD products. While CBD is a promising compound with significant healing properties and medicinal benefits, there is little evidence that backs up these claims.
Small clinical trials and studies have suggested that CBD may be effective in treating injuries and neuropathic pain, but it is difficult to completely understand the potency and purity of many CBD products since there is a huge unregulated CBD market in the nation right now. The only FDA approved CBD based drug is Epidiolex, an oral solution to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy known as Dravet’s syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome.
Additionally, multiple controlled trials suggest that cannabis and two other cannabinoids are effective in treating chronic pain and neuropathic pain, but these trials had short follow-up periods and used small sample sizes, which raises the concern about what exactly can be extrapolated from the clinical trials.
According to Mark Maske, the NFL players’ union and the NFL agreed to study marijuana and its potential medicinal benefits including pain-management impacts. While the study does not imply that marijuana will be decriminalized or removed from the league’s list of banned substances, but it might lead to a bargaining argument that could include a different policy for marijuana.
The NFLPA and NFL’s collective bargaining agreement will expire after the 2020 season. The news comes after the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball announced that in addition to other changes to its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, it would also remove naturally derived cannabis from the lift of “drug of abuse”.