Drug use policy has changed in the NFL
Football is a tough game. Players have – and will continue – to get hurt as long as they are involved in one of the most exciting, but potentially dangerous, sports in the world.
To deal with injuries and pain, football players have long turned to opioids and marijuana. Alleviating pain has been essential for them to carry on playing the sport they love and to retain their livelihoods.
But the NFL didn’t always look so kindly on drug use of any kind. Suspensions and bans were common and some players missed out on the best years of their careers because of that.
But a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed last year – that came into effect this year – has changed the way the NFL regards marijuana use and how the players can now use the drug. Big name players being available for more games is obviously important to anyone involved in NFL betting on a regular basis. But how exactly did the NFL change its stance on marijuana?
What Was the Old NFL View on Cannabis?
The NFL was always very strict on its no drug use policy. Even though players have admitted to using marijuana and opioids as a way of relieving pain for years, any actually caught doing so faced fines and suspensions.
Previously, a failed test meant enrolling in a substance abuse program and the chances of further testing a certainty. A second failed test would bring a two-game ban, while a third and fourth failed test meant missing four games. If there were a fifth failed test the player would be suspended for ten games – and if there were still further failed tests it would mean expulsion from the league.
How Does the NFL Regard Marijuana Use Now?
Man football players argued against the NFL’s strict policy on marijuana use, especially as the league’s THC threshold for a failed test was far lower than the one used in Major League Baseball.
The league finally listened to the players and a new agreement was made in March of last year that dramatically changed the outlook for marijuana use. The new drug policy cut out all suspensions and brought in fines instead. But, more importantly, it slashed the testing period from four months to just two weeks before the start of training camp in August.
The THC limit for the test was also increased and the NFL has now introduced a more liberal marijuana policy than MLB and the NBA. Anecdotal evidence form players, both past and present, shows that marijuana use has always been common in the league and now the stigma has largely been erased, allowing players to alleviate pain and play.
The change in the way the NFL regards marijuana use among its players has come too late for players such as Josh Gordon and Ricky Williams, who missed out on chunks of playing time due to suspensions. With a more liberal outlook from the NFL, there might have been some very different results for teams those players turned out for.
But with marijuana laws changing across the US in the last few years, it seems only right that the sports world updates the way it deals with drug use. For a game like football, alleviating pain with marijuana seems a far better idea than the potential for painkiller addiction.
There has been criticism of the new way of thinking from some former players who are worried about the potential for increased drug use. But using marijuana to deal with chronic pain seems like a better way than the alternatives – and now football players won’t have to choose between living with pain or the risk of losing their jobs.