As pot smokers across the country celebrated 4/20 with some recreational jazz cabbage, the NFL celebrated by messaging players that it’s time for their annual drug tests. Surprise!
Every year, NFL players are sent a message notifying them of their annual drug test, from where they have 3-4 hours to provide a urine sample. This year, the league conveniently decided to kick off its anachronistic marijuana ban by testing players starting on 4/20. At least they still have a sense of humor.
The league isn’t light on this issue, either. After the first positive test, players are put into the league’s substance abuse program and subject to more frequent tests. Second and third positives can lead to a fine and/or suspension. Missed tests are treated the same as a positive, even if it’s offseason and the player is on vacation or out of the country. This the same for players across the entire league, even those who live in states where marijuana is legal.
The NFL has been at odds with the medical marijuana community by maintaining such a hard stance on weed, which bans players from using the substance with no medical exceptions. Many retired players believe marijuana could actually benefit the league, if only to cut down on the number of opiate prescriptions distributed for pain management. This weekend, several retired NFL players including Marvin Washington, Boo Williams, and Darren Long will be speaking alongside doctors and researchers at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo as part of a “Pro Athletes Pro Cannabis” organization, which seeks to have civil and educational discussions on marijuana in sports leagues.
It’s easy for retired players to speak out about rules that no longer apply to them, and while it has proved to be a significant benefit to the conversation, it also helps when those within the league speak out as well. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said during recent NFLPA negotiations that he doesn’t want to lose players for several games at a time just because of a failed drug test, and that he believes allowing cannabis into the conversation could also help team owners in negotiations with players. His proposed suggestion, which was officially written into a proposal by union leaders, is to create a program involving counseling, treatment, and pain management for players who are testing excessively high for marijuana use, rather than the existing mandatory substance abuse programs and multiple-game suspensions for any player with any weed in their system.
A proposal like this with a team owner’s name behind it is a huge step in the right direction for players who would like to have marijuana as an option in their pain management routine. Whether this proposal goes anywhere or not is one thing, but what we do know is that the outspoken activists in and out of the league will make sure the conversation doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon.