In the last article I wrote, I explored the efficacy of cannabis as medicine for professional football players. In this article, I offer an inspiring example of the healing power of cannabis at its best. Although this is a story about a famous person, it deals with an unavoidable life process that we all have suffered in one way or another.
The process of loss and transition is captured poetically by a Joseph Campbell quote I recently came across: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” In a time where our country is divided and struggling with a transition and the potential loss of a dream, maybe the story of how Eugene Monroe recently transitioned out of the NFL can offer some guidance.
A year ago, not many people would have recognized his name. But today, Eugene Monroe’s name is sure to be mentioned in any discussion about the cannabis movement and the NFL. His steady and continuous chant, “Remove cannabis from the NFL’s banned substance list,” seems to be finally crumbling the walls of the NFL’s draconian stance on cannabis. In the past few weeks, two articles, one about the NFL Players Association pushing for the NFL to take a less punitive stance on marijuana, and another about the Commish being open to the suggestion, hit the national media.
Eugene’s influence and interest in cannabis quickly extended far beyond the NFL upon his retirement. Eugene is now a cannabis consumer, connoisseur, advocate, activist, and entrepreneur. All of this from someone who, not that long ago, was still under the spell cast by anti-marijuana propaganda! “I had all the bad ideas of what marijuana was. I believed the commercials and the teachers and all the people who said it was a dangerous drug and would fry your brain. Those are things I thought were the truth, so I wanted nothing to do with it,” Monroe told me in a recent conversation.
So what changed his mind?
Something assured to get people to open their minds: pain, and making it go away. Playing in the NFL is painful. A string of injuries turned into chronic pain found Eugene in need of daily pain medication.
He tells a story similar to so many current and retired players. “I got to the point where I was needing to take opioids and anti-inflammatories to manage pain and push through, and I felt like it was a bad thing.” A voracious reader, Eugene started looking for “alternative ways of dealing,” which, in turn, led him to “try many things, one of which was studying cannabis.” So initially, not using it. Just learning about it. Eugene told me he was “deathly afraid” of failing a test and facing the repercussions of what he saw happen to me during my time in the NFL.
So Eugene’s relationship with cannabis really came about in an organic way. After a great deal of inquiry, plus the ongoing lack of attractive alternatives, Eugene was convinced to give it a go. You can probably guess whether his experience was a positive or negative one. Today, he tells me with a tone of gratitude that you can’t but smile when you hear him talk about it, “cannabis has changed my life, man.”
Post-NFL, Eugene’s a regular user of cannabis and feels sharper than ever, only now in business meetings instead of on the football field. He wants to “understand every aspect” of not just the plant’s medicinal effects, but the industry at large and its ever-evolving network of players. He said that the experience has been “f—ing incredible,” especially as he finds himself with the good fortune of getting to work with “people who have great values.”
Pretty cool how a plant can naturally alleviate the pain of a body taking hits on the professional football field — where Eugene says, “you make one mistake, you lose.” Really f—ing cool how that same plant can sharpen/center/ground a mind, as that football player now runs through the web of cannabis business, real estate, consulting and lobbying worlds — where Eugene also says, “you make one mistake, you lose!” He might have a point.
Something I’ve found so inspiring in Eugene is his passion when he’s advocating for what he believes in: improving the quality of people’s lives. The cause he’s been championing this past year has been on behalf of NFL football players. And now it sounds like more people are listening to Eugene’s message. Maybe because it’s a message whose source is a solid and foundation of research and thoughtful analysis. Next time I’ll talk more about this, and what I’m hoping to see in the NFLPA’s proposed changes to the NFL’s drug policy — you know, that one that got me into a bit of trouble back in the day…