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NFL17 Pre-Play: Cannabis, Chronic Player Pain and a National Conundrum

6 Jul

Mention marijuana (cannabis) to most NFL players and you’re likely to get a positive response, no pun intended.

Classified a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, based largely on marijuana’s psychoactive cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) (One of over 100 canabinoids, including the non-mood-altering cannabidiol (CBD) (Got your fill of biology yet?)) and the Act’s belief in that property’s serious risk for abuse, pot’s possession, sale and / or use are still prosecuted as a criminal offense in twenty-three states, nineteen more (42) if it is possessed outside of prescribed, medicinal usage.

Even so, as an agent for pain-management and escapism, cannabis, whether obtained legally or otherwise, appears to be the drug of choice amongst enough of the NFLPA membership to have spurred Dallas Cowboys’ owner and sport celebrity Jerry Jones to advocate for its allowance while speaking at the owner’s meeting in Phoenix last March.

Currently only eight states have decriminalized ganja for market sale, one of those being Cali-for-ni-a (‘99), the most recent, Nevada, and another twenty-one by prescription only. And don’t expect the former number to grow much beyond the single-digit state (no pun) anytime soon.

Even so, gone forever are the days where tokers took their only solace-in-smoke (or weed-eating, i.e., brownies) by way of High Times and the NORMAL newsletter. Business is booming for Hemp, Incorporated.

Yet, here-to-stay is marijuana’s well-earned status as a gateway drug, not just leading to stronger, more addictive varieties like narcotics, opiods, peer poisons in alcohol and cigarettes, but when engaged in youth can quickly open the door to a whole new lifestyle and not necessarily a better one. It’s one that is non-conforming to a fault while draining enthusiasm or ambition to a low level found in your forlorn basset hound. Been there, done it, woof, woof.

That status was bolstered somewhat on recent release by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s broadest study as yet conducted on cannabis – cannabinoids and their health effects on humanoids.

In January (1.17) the NA released its 468 page report* compiled from human subject studies for findings on the “health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use” and that of its elemental cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.).

With a focus in this write on health issues most pertinent to NFL players and their employers stemming (no pun) from the marijuana issue, there was both good news and bad news to be gleaned from the lengthy report.

The good news is that “there is substantial evidence (p.90)” cannibas can be a beneficial agent in treating chronic pain, a malady concomitant with those who engage athletics over an extended period of years.

The bad news: 1) Marijuana is still a gateway drug; 2) pot can be addictive (“problem cannabis use (333)”), especially as a teen and 3) regular use of cannabis is associated with risks of schizophrenia (“substantial (295)”), bipolar disorder (“moderate (307)”), suicide (“moderate (314)”), memory loss (“moderate evidence of…association between acute cannabis use and impairment in the cognitive domains of learning, memory and attention (275)”), anxiety (“moderate evidence daily cannabis use is associated with increased anxiety (119 / 318)”) and social phobia disorder (“heavy use (120)).”

It’s a mixed bag. The bottom-line: If in chemotherapy (nausea) or afflicted with multiple sclerosis (spasticity), the “conclusive” findings (94 / 103) tilt your risk-benefit balance in favor of marijuana’s use (“oral cannabinoids”) to alleviate suffering, assuming you’ve had your prof’l consult and sorted through the national hodge-podge of legalese. In those more serious, harder to treat medical conditions, cannabis is a proven therapy for relief, and that alone is reason for re-examination of its rather draconian federal categorizing.

But where paid athletes seeking a marijuana solution for chronic pain are subject, a state so common in their bruising professions, whether by smoke or extracts (oral), the risks posed appear too great in the benefit balance, risks arising from uneven permissibility (legality) and, more importantly, from the potential for memory decline, that very same malady central to the ongoing concussion debate that plagues hard-hitting sports like football, hockey and boxing. That’s an irony that hits like Bobby Wagner: Ouch!

And when there exists effective alternatives readily available to pain-sufferers in nutrition supplements (tart cherry & noni juice, magnesium, Co-Q10, curcumin, polyphenolic-antioxidents, Bs, D3, alpha lipoic), diet adjustments ((-) gluten, sugar, cured meats) and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen)), the so-called marijuana answer to pain management, not without its merits, proves too risky to fire-up or wash-down.

Even as the mental health and cognitive findings on pot’s use and “sustained abstinence (275)” were not based on “conclusive” or “substantial” evidentiary finding (Box S-3, “Weight-of-Evidence” standards (p.7)), it’s doubtful additional NA compilations on the polarizing weed, even with gold standard double-blind placebo controlled structures sought, will reveal the opposite to be true, that memory or bipolar – anxiety disorders are improved with its habitual use.

And keep in mind that whenever federal and state governments are at odds over a national issue of legislation, leading to a broad non-uniformity, that status will trigger Commerce and Supremacy clause inquiries and then eventually end up on the Supreme Court’s docket. So don’t vest too heavily yet.

Marijuana is here to stay, legal or illegal, medicinal or diversionary. And like it or not, Charles Barkley, pro athletes are role models to the nation’s youth. Fire up the bong and make it a public issue with lifestyle or league violations and that segment of the population least able to manage the drug properly will have their lives changed forever in health risks and bad habits.

In 2015 the League (Goodell) and NFLPA (Smith) went all namby-pamby in raising, under their collectively bargained drug policy, the level of marijuana required in test to trigger a violation, essentially telling players and the public that using what is still fairly characterized as an illicit drug is A-okay with them, because lots of the using players want it that way, even as its continued use is also fairly characterized as detrimental to their health. So there’s that.

— — —

This writer is not medically-trained (I was, as George Segal’s character “Mr. Kovacs” termed it in The Cable Guy (96), “on the pot” in my late teens, alcohol and smokes included, of course) and did not read the entire 468 page report, instead focusing on those sections most relevant to NFL player concerns. But I wrote with honesty and thoroughness befitting an 1100 word blog. For the lay-person the report is readable, somewhat unclear in spots but overall helpful by informing on a very broad and still yet under-researched subject.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: marijuana-joint, wc.cca, T.Hansen, 2.23.08; marijuana-costume, SCCE, 10.16.16, wc, G.Skidmore; marijuana-plant, J.Martin, wc, 7.14.15; marijuana-neon, wc, SanFernando-Valley, LA-CA, L.Avocado; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 7.6.17 @ 1:03p EST, edit 7.7; Copyright © 2017
*References: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx

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Bonnie and Clyde Ambushed Again, No Badges or Bullets But Bad Manners at Academy Gala

17 Mar

If you think the 89th Academy Awards snafu, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being handed Best Actress envelope by staffers to announce and present the Best Picture award at the recent gala, was an accident as purported, I’m gonna’ guess there’s a good chance you’re comfortable too with the following conjectures:

1) Lee Harvey Oswald, double-agent with “Maggies drawers” and friend of clandestines Clay Shaw, David Ferrie, bag-man Jack Ruby and the FBI, fired off five shots in 3.5 seconds with one of the worst bolt-action rifles in history, ordered in the mail, aimed through a live oak in November from the Texas School Book Depository to assassinate President Kennedy;

2) A man named Shakspeare (no ‘e’ after ‘k’ spelled 3 ways), son of a Stratford-on-Avon glove-maker, with no public library or apparent capers to fortify his inspiration with the relevant nomenclature (“slang”) filling the voluminous literary product, wrote what most consider to be the greatest compilation of works in this planet’s history and yet by will devised a mere bowl and a sword but made no mention of the manuscripts likely most dear to its author’s heart;

3) Scientists, farmers, fire-fighters, polar ice-cap watchers, coastal residents and other folks in weather-affected livelihoods from around the world are blowing smoke when they red-flag a global-warming they’ve seen first-hand for years;

So how’d you do? Still a believer?

Innocent mishaps do happen but not in the Academy presentation they don’t, not with the Big presentation. In Jackson Pollock speak, “I deny the accident.” Why Mr. Beatty, who later expressed an awareness upon opening the envelope that he’d been handed the wrong card but proceeded to hand it to Dunaway without whisper of explanation is a curious bumble on his part. Age (b. 3.30.37 (79))?

Recently deceased movie expert and much beloved Robert Osborne (TCM) could attest to the fact that there have been errors committed in the AA’s long history, as when Sammy Davis Jr. was handed a wrong card on a music awarding in 1964. But none so serious in this most climactic of moments when the Best Picture Oscar® is announced and the statuette handed to the winner. It’s the high-point of the celebration and the biggest trophy in the bunch.

It’s a well vetted process that for near ninety years going back to the silents has prided itself on a meticulous production to avoid just that dreaded appearance of ineptitude, confusion and takesie backsies we saw in February, not to mention a loss of trust. I will not believe that that standard is not, for most, still in place.

But what’s the motive for one or more, and it’d likely be more (Where’s the fun doing it alone (ugh)?), to recklessly or intentionally throw a monkey-wrench into the works? Jealousy, childish, simple-minded jealousy may‘ve been the culprit.

And what does one do with cold envy? If you’re a snake, you don’t bury it, you find expression for it in skullduggery (See; Hamlet) by making two titans of the industry in Faye and Warren look bad. That they’re old, comparatively speaking, would make the theoretical dirty deed all that more satisfying to the doer(s) who, post-play, would smirk like the Grinch after his Whoville haul-away. Tee-hee.

Today, resentment for anything that is well established, be it a person’s advanced age and concomitant accomplishments, or time-tested traditions, even those that work, especially those that work, is at its apex.

It’s an arrogant mindset that has corporate backing: Out with the old, in with the new, change, change, change, unless of course it’s a helpful myth (See; Above). Don’t eat your young, heavens no, eat your Grandparents, instead. And that, even as everyone’s parade is headed to seniorhood, whether they get there or not.

‘How could they have done it, set them up, it’s so cold, so…dishonest?’ Yup.

I’d imagine it could’ve been accomplished quite easily by any number of people in the Academy or PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) chain-of-custody, made easier by the fact that organizers, while always guarding against flaws in the production through miscommunication and lethargy, were oblivious to even the possibility of one or more of their people intentionally gumming up the works.

Organizers wouldn’t have seen it coming this time but they’ll be on alert now with stepped-up monitoring in preparation and handling of announcement-cards.

Dishonesty and devious minds, they’re as old as Neanderthal short-changing Cro-Magnon in the first trade, ‘club for clams (‘Don’t give him all those, look at his forehead for crying out loud!’).’ But when too many of our leaders and celebrities seem to care not in the least what example they set, corruption grows rampant.

It’s not hard to find a story on corruption or greed today, they’re everywhere: Politics (S.Korea), schools (cheating), business (Volkswagen), media (fake news), the Marines (nude photos).

Sport is my usual theme and there the bad news is almost a daily line:

Olympian Ryan Lochte fabricates a false robbery report to Brazilian police and receives less than a year (10m) suspension from competitive swimming;

Ongoing PED use spans across the sport spectacle. It’s buoyed by enablers and apologists like HOF-voters who, where former baseball star Iván Rodríguez is concerned, enshrined the 13-time gold glove winning catcher in 2017, his first year of eligibility, even as the Puerto Rico native was named in former Texas Rangers’ teammate Jose Canseco’s watershed book, Juiced (05), as a user of performance enhancers with Jose claiming to’ve personally injected Iván (See also PED debate; Olympic swimmers Milorad Cavic v. Michael Phelps);

Michael Sam using an announcement on his sexual orientation as a means to draw attention and maybe preference for the approaching NFL draft;

Notre Dame Heisman hopeful, LB Manti Te’o concocts a story of a non-existent girlfriend who is, of all things, dying from cancer and today rosters in the NFL;

Maybe not NBA players so much as the draft-dingy junior media who encourage the prospect of tanking, and receive monetary compensation to write as much;

— — —

We had streakers in my youth (♫ The Streak (‘74) ♫). Call is spontaneous, kooky, a bit shocking but all in good fun. Today, those nudists have grandkids who take part in flash mobs to try to intimidate and frighten.

Don’t expect more shenanigans at the Academy Awards in the near future. Nobody wants pandemonium. Strike that, MOST don’t want pandemonium.

But if I’m over fifty-five and work in the movies, I wouldn’t plan on ever attending the big ceremony ever again, not until someone come’s clean or gets called on that red carpet. And then I’m not forgetting how Maureen O’Hara was treated.

And dilly-dally on that issue shouldn’t forestall the decision to find another new host for the 2018 AA and let Jimmy Kimmel focus on his talk show, or better yet, get back to what he’s best at, Crank Yank(ing). At least “Special Ed,” “Birchum” and “Gladys” were all real, god love ‘em.

Steven Keys
Photo credit: Oscar® statuette, wc.cca, 1951, Kon-Tiki, V.Atanassova; W.Beatty, wc, A.Light, 3.26.90; Oscars®, I.Hayes, Enterprise, Shaft, 4.22.72, wc; Oscars®, Bjork-Swan, 2001, Marjan-Pejoski, C.D.Riccio, wc; Oscars®, T.Hanks, 1989, wc, Light; Oscars®, wc, Hopper-Bigelow, 2.28.11, AA83, C.Lazo, Army; D.Taylor, wc, 1967, Bonnie&Clyde, WB-7A
Posted: 3.17.17 @ 1:10pm, edit 11:17; Copyright © 2017