Marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states across the country, and quite a few of those states have NFL teams. While it’s still illegal in the league, the NFL Players Association is starting to work on a proposal to soften the blow and penalties for players who test positive for marijuana use.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith recently told the Washington Post the NFLPA is working on a proposal to amend the NFL’s current drug policies. Their goal is to make the penalty for players who tested positive for recreational marijuana softer thanks to a “less punitive” approach.
It’s one thing for the NFLPA to propose such a plan, but it’s another for the plan to get approved and adopted into the NFL’s bylaws. The proposal will be presented to the union’s board of player reps and if it’s approved by those players, it will then be proposed to the league. From there, the NFL would have to agree to change the drug policy that is negotiated and drawn up by the league and player’s union together.
Overall, it’s a complicated process that won’t be completed anytime soon.
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” Smith told Washington Post reporters and editors. “I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”
The goal of the NFLPA is to have the recreational marijuana use rules changed because of studies done by the NFLPA’s newly formed pain management committee. The committee is looking into marijuana as a pain management tool and if players should be penalized for using it as such.
“We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right?” Smith said. “So if I look at this myopically as just a recreational use of marijuana and miss the fact that we might have players suffering from depression, what have I fixed? Worse yet, you may have solved an issue that gets the steady drumbeat in a newspaper but miss an issue like chronic depression . . . where a person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it’s not curing their depression.”
“So to me, as we’re looking at that front end — and it’s been a long process — the reason why I think it’s more complicated than just making a quick decision about recreational use is we look at these things as a macro-issue. And what we try to do is what a union’s supposed to do: improve the health and safety of our players in a business that sometimes can seriously exacerbate existing physical and mental issues.”
The last time the NFLPA and league agree to modify the drug policy in relation to marijuana was back in 2014. The two agreed to simply change the threshold for “what constitutes a positive test for marijuana.” The level of 15 nanograms of THC was bumped up to 35 nanograms. One nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.
“I don’t spend time thinking about what the league thinks,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s a waste of time. . . . We will sit down and we will present a proposal to our board. . . . If our board approves the proposal, we’ll sit down with the league and we will make the proposal to them. If we think that this is medically, scientifically and therapeutically the right position, then we tell the league, ‘Therapeutically, medically and scientifically, this is the right position.’”
The entire debate and issue will take a long time to solve, but this is a big step in the right direction for the NFLPA trying to argue that marijuana could help players recover from the tough injuries they suffer playing football.