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NFL Considers Modifying its Cannabis Policy

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Flickr @ Jonathan Moreau

The NFL’s policy towards players’ consumption of cannabis is an issue that has been discussed quite extensively, with many former players both expressing their support of the plant medicine for pain management as well as starting their own cannabis businesses themselves. A significant update to the cannabis policy is now a part of the upcoming negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the league and the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA). 

Under the proposed CBA, a player would be suspended by the league for cannabis consumption “only in the event of extreme and repeated disregard of the policy or significant violations of applicable law regarding the possession and use of marijuana,” according to a report from NBC Sports Pro Football Talk.

In addition, the new cannabis policy under the proposed CBA would reduce the league’s testing window from four months down to two weeks. As it stands now, players can be tested from April 20th (not joking) until preseason games start in August. If accepted, the league’s cannabis policy would essentially decriminalize it within the NFL, catching it up to other leagues. 

Currently, the NFL has some of the harshest drug policies of any major sports league. The recently launched XFL, a spring pro football league owned by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, isn’t testing its players for cannabis at all. Major League Baseball players who are active on 40-man rosters aren’t tested for cannabis, and NHL players aren’t penalized for testing positive for cannabis. NBA players are suspended and possibly fined for testing positive for cannabis, but they aren’t tested for cannabis in the off-season.

Team owners seem to be on board with the policy changes. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys – the NFL’s most profitable team – hinted towards the league modifying its cannabis policies along with the upcoming CBA last year.

“I think the world is sensitive to the issue regarding marijuana. It’s also an issue contemporarily we’re excited about being in step with the social and legal scene as it goes forward,” Jones told CBS Sports. “And, so, we not only have the interest of competitiveness in mind when it comes to any type of substance, we have the issue of the law and we have the issue of the society focus on it. All of that does receive attention when you’re discussing this area with players.”

Player representatives for each of the 32 teams are expected to speak on a conference call today. In addition to the policy changes, the new NFL CBA will remove one preseason game to make it a 17-game regular season. Fourteen teams would make the playoffs, with only the 1st seed getting a bye week. League officials and the NFLPA have until March 18th to negotiate terms of the CBA. The playoff format could be in effect for the start of the season this fall, but the 17-game season wouldn’t be implemented until 2021-2022, if agreed upon.

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