By Liz Eiseman.
Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe won’t be on the next roster, and it may be for his advocacy for medical marijuana. Monroe’s January recovery from a shoulder injury inspired him to write about marijuana versus opioids, and donate $80,000 to medical marijuana researchers at both Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. His work, he tweeted, was all for his “brothers… the players that make up the team… our future health and wellness.”
Unfortunately, his offseason, offtopic efforts failed to impress the Ravens officials. In the days leading up to his release, attitudes from the organization led Monroe to wonder if his marijuana advocacy was to blame. Interestingly, his original questions were less about the drug, and more about overall NFL healthcare. On Wednesday, Monroe had told The New York Times “I can’t say for sure whether or not my stance on medical cannabis was the reason the Ravens released me.” One day later, he added in a series of tweets, “I don’t say these things to slander the @NFL or my team. I say them because we need a solution. We need change in our health care.”
While Monroe hopes to continue his football career, it’s worth noting that ESPN referred to him as a usually injured, underperforming, replaceable OL. And Coach Jim Harbaugh has promised that “he does not speak for the organization” on marijuana. Combined with rising star Ronnie Stanley ready to play at left tackle, there’s really no great football reason to keep Monroe on the roster.
Harbaugh clearly agreed, stating, “Football circumstances. One hundred percent footbal circumstances. That’s it. That’s all it ever was. It’s no reflection on Eugene Monroe in any way. It just has to do with the circumstances with the Ravens and that position.” Medical marijuana is on the NFL’s banned substances list, despite individual state laws. While Maryland has decriminalized marijuana since February 2016, Monroe was the first Baltimore Raven to campaign for the NFL to reconsider the ban.
Monroe’s well-intentioned campaign could dampen his recruiting prospects. The NFL is notoriously strict about drug usage (let’s not forget Josh Gordon and Laremy Tunsil), so perhaps this interest is poorly timed. However, there are some merits to his arguments. The NFL has recently been under pressure for over prescribing painkillers to players. In a study by Drug and Alcohol Dependence, some of those painkillers were four times more likely to be abused by retired players than by the general population. Meanwhile, hundreds of active players are estimated to regularly use marijuana to manage weekly pain.
Other players have slowly joined the Monroe’s campaign, like Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who supports the NFL researching medicinal marijuana. For now, Eugene Monroe is searching for new grass, preferably with end, side, and goal lines.
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