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Former Broncos among current, former NFL players making push for marijuana as option to opiates for pain

By: NICHOLE MONTANEZ, The Gazette
June 15, 2016 Updated: June 16, 2016 at 7:08 am
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photo - Former Denver Broncos quarterback, Jake Plummer, poses for a photo with Some of the children at the Realm of Caring who use medical cannabis to treat epilepsy.
Former Denver Broncos quarterback, Jake Plummer, poses for a photo with Some of the children at the Realm of Caring who use medical cannabis to treat epilepsy. 

In recent months, current and former NFL players have come out in support of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and brain injury. This week at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in New York, former Denver Broncos Charlie Adams and Nate Jackson will be part of panel discussion on "CTE, concussions and CBD" moderated by Leonard Marshall, a former New York Giants player and co-founder of the Brain Unity Trust.

Football players are becoming the new face of this movement. At the forefront is Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe.

"I originally became interested in medical cannabis when I watched a documentary with Paige and Charlotte Figi," Monroe said.

Charlotte Figi, 9, has been the face of medical cannabis for over 4½ years. Her mother Paige has led charge to expand access federally.

Figi and Monroe caught up in Denver last month, when they talked kids, football, cannabis, legislation and what his support might mean to his career. The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that the Ravens are looking to trade Monroe. Some speculate that this is a direct result of his stance on medical cannabis.

Eugene Monroe poses for a portrait with Tyler Brown. Tyler is a Monument teen who uses medical cannabis to treat his intractable epilepsy.  

In recent months, current and former NFL players have come out in support of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain and brain injury.

"This is very near and dear to me, and should be to any player in the NFL," Monroe said. "Medical cannabis is far safer than anything doctors are prescribing for pain.

"If you play football, traumatic brain stress is guaranteed. Especially in my position."

Former Denver Broncos quarterback, Jake Plummer, poses for a photo with Some of the children at the Realm of Caring who use medical cannabis to treat epilepsy. 
Jake Plummer, former Denver Broncos quarterback gives some tips to 13-year-old Zaki Jackson. Zaki is 3 years seizure free on CBD oil. His mom, Heather Jackson, is the director of the Realm of Caring nonprofit in Colorado Springs. 
Jake Plummer, former Denver Broncos quarterback throws the football to some kids at the Realm of Caring. 

Monroe has spent the last several months trying to educate people about the benefits of cannabis. After The Realm of Caring, a Colorado Springs nonprofit, launched When The Bright Lights Fade campaign, featuring Jake Plummer, Monroe made a $10,000 donation. The campaign was launched to fund a study at Johns Hopkins on how the use of cannabinoids, specifically cannabidiol (CBD), can help treat and prevent the onset of symptoms associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy and traumatic brain injury.

"After my initial funding, I was expecting people to see that and understand the importance and step up, but ultimately I'm not going to wait," Monroe said.

Monroe has donated a total of $80,000 to Realm of Caring.

When asked why he believes no other current NFL players donated, Monroe said: "Quite frankly they are terrified to speak out and put their career on the line. For me, my health and the health of my teammates is much more important."

Eugene Monroe holds Marley at the Realm of Caring fundraiser in Colorado Springs. Marley has epilepsy. She and her family moved to Colorado from Pennsylvania for access to CBD. 

Monroe has spent a few months traveling and speaking about his support of medical cannabis. His most recent trip was to a Realm of Caring fundraiser in Colorado Springs where he presented former Cleveland Browns nose tackle Brian Schaefering with a service dog to assist him with stability issues caused by traumatic brain injury.

Former Cleveland Browns, Brian Schaefering meets 21-year-old Jordan Lyles. Jordan and her mom moved to Colorado from Ohio for medical cannabis. 

Monroe has visited Realm of Caring twice, and met children that are healing and living a more normal life because of medical marijuana. "I can't imagine being a child, not even the sick child, but the brother or sister, and your whole life revolves around the sickness of your sibling," Monroe said. "And there's nothing you can do about it.

"Looking into the eyes of these people who have given up everything and sacrificed everything to save the lives of their children is unbelievable. It's life changing."

Drew Macneir sits while former NFL players Lorenzo Neal, Brian Schaefering and Kyle Turley sign footballs for a Realm of Caring fundraiser. 
Colorado Springs Drew Macneir gets a hug from former NFL players Lorenzo Neal and Brian Schaefering.  
Former NFL player Kyle Turley with Monument teen, Tyler Brown at the Realm of Caring in Colorado Springs. 

He plans to stay involved and facilitate change where he is able. Monroe says he will support federal legislation. "Paige is at the forefront of this legislation. It's very irresponsible for people to oppose this. It's unfortunate that people who are in the position to make those changes are in opposition."

Eugene and nine-year-old Maddie Gorman high five at the Realm of Caring fundraiser, June 10, 2016. Maddie moved to Colorado Springs two years ago with her mother for CBD. Maddie has epilepsy as a result of chemotherapy treatment for Leukemia when she was a toddler. 

"The fight will continue."

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