The NFL should allow players to use marijuana

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I read somewhere that marijuana helps with brain injuries. With all the concussions in the NFL, when are professional football players gonna be allowed to use weed?

—Jerry Nice

Right? It makes sense to me. But maybe the NFL hasn’t paid any attention to the various studies showing that cannabis isn’t just an effective neuroprotectant, it also helps to grow healthy brain cells.

Perhaps it hasn’t read anything from Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the person who discovered the THC molecule. He co-authored a paper in 2002 ( 2002_mechoulam_1.pdf) showing how weed protects the brain during injury. Or maybe it has never heard of Dr. Xia Zhang from Saskatoon? Zhang published a study in 2005 showing that weed helped the hippocampus create new brain cells (

Check this quote from a study done at the University of Washington looking for a drug to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease): “Ideally, a multidrug regimen, including glutamate antagonists, antioxidants, a centrally acting anti-inflammatory agent, microglial cell modulators (including tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha] inhibitors), an antiapoptotic agent, 1 or more neurotrophic growth factors, and a mitochondrial function-enhancing agent would be required to comprehensively address the known pathophysiology of ALS. Remarkably, cannabis appears to have activity in all of those areas. Preclinical data indicate that cannabis has powerful antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.”

That’s right. Cannabis does a lot of things. And it tastes good. If I was in charge of the NFL and I had just settled a lawsuit for almost $1 billion because of all of the concussions players receive, I would dang-near insist that players smoke, eat or vaporize some weed after the game. I would lobby the federal government to reclassify cannabis so it is no longer a Schedule I drug, and allow for more tests to be done about cannabis and brain injuries. I would personally apologize to Ricky Williams for suspending him for cannabis use back in the day. I would encourage the Marijuana Policy Project to put up more billboards extolling weed over booze, like the one erected at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. And I would allow weed sales and discourage booze sales in stadiums. But that’s just me.

Hello. I am new to this whole smoking pot thing. Can you give me any tips on etiquette?

—Nan the Newbie

No problem. The first rule: Be yourself. That’s true for all things. Other than that, it’s pretty easy. If smoking a bowl, don’t burn off the top layer of green; leave some green for the people you are sharing with. Please don’t salivate all over the joint or blunt, and try to bring some weed to share when you can. Welcome to the tribe of cannabis.