A retired Harvard University professor is urging the National Football League to fund research on marijuana as a treatment for repetitive brain injuries.
In an open letter written last week to NFL commissioner Roger S. Goodell, Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard University explains why he believes the league is in an ideal position to fund medical marijuana studies.
“As both a medical doctor and one of millions of fans who enjoy professional football as a spectator sport, I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the growing specter that many of the athletes I cheer from the sidelines will one day pay the steep price of developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) due to concussions and other repetitive brain injuries incurred in the course of their profession,” begins the letter.“Marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties”But Dr. Grinspoon, an 85-year-old Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry who also practiced as a psychiatrist for 40 years, says he was encouraged to hear Goodell’s recent statement about being open to the possibility of allowing athletes to treat concussions and other head injuries with medical marijuana.
In late January of this year, the NFL commissioner said the league would consider the use of medical marijuana if medical experts deemed it useful.
Dr. Grinspoon notes that “already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data.”
Still, more direct evidence of marijuana’s ability to protect against brain trauma is lacking – something the professor says would need a substantial amount of funding.
“The extensive research required to definitively determine cannabis’s ability to prevent CTE will require millions of dollars in upfront investment,” writes Dr. Grinspoon, adding: “it’s highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company will get involved in studying cannabis as a treatment for CTE, because the plant (and its natural components) can’t be patented.”“It’s highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company will get involved”Dr. Grinspoon also points out that the U.S. government, despite having the resources, has proven its unwillingness to support research on marijuana’s potential medical benefits.
“Given the severity of the problem, however, I think you, and the NFL, must go beyond simply following the medicine, and help lead the way by directly funding research to determine if cannabis… can indeed provide significant protection against the damage of repetitive concussions,” urges the professor.
Dr. Grinspoon has been a career-long advocate of medical marijuana, after first taking an interest in the drug in the 1960s.
The professor is also the author of two books on cannabis as a medicine, Marihuana Reconsidered (1971) and Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine (1993), and has given expert testimony in various court battles.