NFL Loosening Rules Tied to Cannabis Use by Players

In recent years, cannabis has been making a lot of headway towards decriminalization. In a surprising move in one of the most anti-marijuana institutions remaining in the USA, the National Football League met with players and ratified a new labor agreement on March 15, 2020. Among dozens of incremental changes, the one that stood out the most to the pro-cannabis movement was tied to marijuana use by players.

What Changed?

The old laws were among some of the harshest in the country, with just one of penalties being immediate and indefinite suspension for something only two states with teams in the NFL have teams have criminalized. That’s right, even if you are a player in any one of the recreational or medicinal MJ states, you could be banned from the game — for life. That was a harsher penalty than being caught with steroids in your system.

Here are the changes which were agreed upon that will begin with the 2021 season:

  • Players who test positive for marijuana use will not be suspended.
  • Drug testing is performed during the first two weeks of training camp. The prior window of testing was from April 20 to August 1st.
  • The level of THC required to trigger a “positive” test has been quadrupled — the limit has gone up from 35 to 150.
  • Players will not be suspended for positive tests. However, they can be fined several weeks’ salary, depending on the number of positive tests.
  • First-time positives will be given a league-mandated treatment program. However, players who refuse testing or participation in clinical care are considered non-cooperative and can be punished with up to a 3-game suspension.
  • The number of players subjected to random drug testing will be reduced. Prior rules allowed any ten players to be tested each time.

What This Means

As cannabis is being gradually decriminalized across the country, the NFL is showing acceptance for changes in the attitude towards THC and in some ways has even surpassed the policies other leagues have shown in their recent changes to policies. The MLB and NBA are now the most stringent opponents towards cannabis in professional sports.

In part, because of the opioid crisis, the NFL and NFLPA have been participating in the study of healing and addictive qualities of marijuana and how they relate to pain management without addiction. Many professional athletes struggle with addiction to pain killers and in some cases have succumbed to their addictions as a result. Cannabis represents an alternate method of treatment without physical addiction that has proven time and time again to be non-lethal.

Many people struggling with opioid use feel that they should be allowed to have the option to take other medications that could benefit their pain management with less harmful impacts on their long-term health. Many players perceive that THC is a less harmful alternative. With looser regulations, this is now something they can better explore.

What Led to This?

The attitude towards cannabis, not only as a therapeutic drug, but also a recreational drug is changing across the country. As of April 2020, 11 states have legalized it for both medicinal and recreational use, with all but a handful still hanging on to draconian anti-THC laws. Of the states which have universally legalized THC (with age and licensing restrictions, of course), 7 of these are home to NFL teams. Only two states remain in the League where cannabis is still entirely illegal (Wisconsin and Tennessee). It is hard to believe that the NFL policies on testing positive for THC were more severe than punishments from state and local laws in many cases.

Past and present players have been pushing for change for some time, not only because of relaxed laws across the country but also because of their perceived choice in their pain management treatments. With such a short window on the health of players and their ability to perform on the field, it is good to know that other alternatives are being explored.

Contact Us!

Even if you’re not in the NFL, make an appointment with our medical marijuana doctors in Colorado Springs to learn more about how cannabis can be used in your life and how it may affect your health. Stress, pain management, and other factors are critical items many Americans are exploring in their daily lives. Become more educated in your options – schedule an appointment online, call us at (719) 246-0393, or email us at today.