Proposed NFL Agreement Could Loosen Marijuana Restrictions For Next Season

A new rule proposed for National Football League players would narrow the window of random marijuana testing and reduce penalties for failed tests.

The National Football League reported that NFL owners will meet in New York on Feb. 20 to discuss the status of negotiations with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), including amendments to the league’s marijuana policy.

Pro Football Talk reporter Mike Florio said the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) calls for “dramatically reduced penalties, with suspensions happening 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 the recent NFL report, a new CBA between the League and the NFLPA could be ratified before the start of the new league year on March 18. The last CBA took effect in August 2011 after negotiations ended between the NFL owners and NFL players.

Currently, the NFL bans the use of marijuana. Under the proposed CBA, changes to the cannabis policy would include narrowing the window for annual cannabis testing to only two weeks, compared to the current window for random testing that falls between April 20 and August 9.

The current CBA regulation for the first positive cannabis test result comes with a reprimand of attending a mandatory substance abuse program. The second positive test qualifies players for a two-game fine.

If a player tests positive for a third time, they are penalized with a four-game fine. A fourth positive test means a four-game ban, and a fifth positive result means a 10-game ban. Subsequent positive test results might mean expulsion from the league.

The current CBA expires following the 2020 season.

Professional Athletes on Marijuana

The proposed loosening of marijuana restriction has been part of a slow process by the League to warm up to the idea of marijuana use as a pain management tool for players. In May 2019 a joint committee was formed between the NFL management and the NFLPA to study the effects of marijuana.

The NFLPA and former NFL players have been urging the League to reform its policy on cannabis for years. Recent reports from NFL players suggest a high number of athletes use cannabis despite the NFL’s policy. Many players have even gone on to become cannabis entrepreneurs, including Joe Montana and Terrell Davis.

Major League Baseball players do not face marijuana testing. Even Minor League Baseball players may no longer be subject to penalties from marijuana use. The change was proposed under a new deal between the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA).

The National Basketball Association is also receiving pressure to change its cannabis policy. Currently, the NBA has a lower threshold for testing than the NFL. The NFL current rules allow for a sample to have up to 35 ng/ml whereas the NBA will only allow up to 15 ng/ml to record a positive test.

In 2019, a group of more than 150 professional athletes petitioned the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to remove marijuana from its list of prohibited substances. Among those in support of the change were quarterback Jake Plummer, boxer Mike Tyson, cyclist Floyd Landis, and snowboarder Greta Gaines.

Learn more about the brief history of cannabis and the Olympics.

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