NFL players are no strangers to cannabis controversies. Many have been arrested for marijuana possession or suspended for positive drug tests. Currently, players who test positive for marijuana four times are suspended for four games without pay. A fifth positive test triggers a 10-game suspension, and a sixth is grounds for a year-long ban.
Now, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is considering proposing that the league adopt a “less punitive” cannabis policy. “If our board approves the proposal, we’ll sit down with the league and we will make the proposal to them,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told The Washington Post. “If we think that this is medically, scientifically and therapeutically the right position, then we will tell the league, ‘Therapeutically, medically and scientifically, this is the right position.’”
Smith believes “it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used,” “I do think that addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate… 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 league has taken a hard line on marijuana. In November, they offered this statement to the press: “Medical experts have not recommended making a change or revisiting our collectively-bargained policy and approach related to marijuana, and our position on its use remains consistent with federal law and workplace policies across the country. If these medical experts change their view, then this is an area that we would explore.”
There’s increasing scientific evidence that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain, not to mention CBD’s neuroprotective properties. Realm of Caring, a medical marijuana non-profit, is partnering with Johns Hopkins to study current and former NFL players.
Its CEO Heather Jackson told the Orange County Register that she expected pushback from the league, fearing it would attempt to shut down the studies or subpoena the medical records of its participants, but instead the NFL called her to say, “We’re not going to stand in your way. We want to know how the results come out.”
There’s increasing evidence that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain and many other conditions. For example, Seantrel Henderson uses cannabis to counter the effects of Crohn’s disease. But the Buffalo Bills offensive lineman was suspended twice during the 2016 season for failed drug tests.