Two-time Super Bowl winner Chris Long has become the latest former NFL star to endorse marijuana use for professional football players.

The former St Louis Rams, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end called time on a glittering career at the weekend. He is now able to become a more vocal advocate for the benefits of cannabis use among athletes.

“I certainly enjoyed my fair share during my career,” he said in a radio interview. “I was never afraid to say that, but I am able to say it more explicitly now. If not for that, I’m not as capable of coping with the stresses of NFL life.”

Long said it is far less dangerous and harmful than drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco, and he declared that it should not be considered a drug. He said it is an effective method of pain management, and urged the league to realize how arbitrary testing players once a year is.

The NFL agreed for the first time this week to take part in a study of the potential use of cannabis as a pain management method for players. It represents a real shift in its attitude and it could be a big milestone for the industry if the NFL were to eventually endorse it.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association are creating committees to address the issue, and the league’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, said it is a proud day for the sport. One committee will focus on pain management and the other on health and wellness.

A large and growing group of players has become increasingly outspoken about why cannabis is preferable to popping pills and drinking excessively in a bid to manage pain brought on by an intense career in the NFL.

However, there is a long road ahead. These committees will need to study a plethora of data and bring in all manner of medical experts to testify, so it could be a long and painstaking process.

Earlier this year, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving announced on social media that he will quit the NFL unless it loosens its stance on marijuana. He was suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s drug policy.

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