The National Football League is considering softening its anti-marijuana drug policy, ESPN.com's Dan Graziano reports. The new policy would increase the threshold to trigger positive test for marijuana and also decrease the severity of the punishments doled out for violations.
The news comes amid intense negotiations between the league's owners and the Player's Association over updates to the drug testing program that have been ongoing since 2011.
As it stands, the NFL's standard for a failed marijuana test is actually stricter than that of the World Anti-Doping Agency, the ESPN report notes. The change wouldn't make rampant marijuana use allowable by any means, but it is a sign that acceptance of casual use of the drug is growing. Many states have loosened their own laws, decriminalizing it entirely as Colorado has. And there has been increased evidence that players are using marijuana simply as a pain reliever, as ex-NFL player Nate Jackson explains his recent tell-all book. Medical marijuana could be coming to team doctors soon, too, ESPN notes:
The NFL Players Association has expressed to the league an interest in studying the medical research that has led to the legalization of marijuana in many states for medicinal use, but it believes changes are needed in the meantime regardless.
The NFL's harsh anti-marijuana stance became a hot topic during the Super Bowl in February, as the homes states of both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have legalized marijuana in the last year. ("The Doobie Bowl," as Grantland's Bill Simmons termed the game.) When the Super Bowl hit New York, legal-marijuana activists lobbied the NFL to loosen its policy with large billboards and focused attention on the topic. They particularly contrasted the NFL's anti-weed stance with its promotion of alcohol, a far less safe drug.
The new regulations may also be a bargaining chip in the negotiations, particularly in regards to HGH testing, which the league is trying implement. Recognizing that pot use is already widespread among its athletes, the NFL may be willing to let that go in exchange for stricter rules elsewhere.
The proposed changes would not be retroactive, so Cleveland Browns fans still have to worry about wide receiver Josh Gordon's reported year-long suspension for marijuana use that was handed down last week. But there's at least one man on board.
Why isn't marijuana allowed for #NFL players? It isn't a performance enhancing drug! A wkday joint shouldn't stop athletes from playing Sun— Larry King (@kingsthings) May 14, 2014