As public opinion towards marijuana continues to warm, there is talk that, in the not too distant future, NFL players may be able to partake in using the popular drug. Currently, 16 of the 32 professional football teams are located in states that have legalized at least the medicinal use of marijuana, according to the NFL. However, the drug is listed as a banned substance under the League’s collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) that applies to all teams, including players, and those found in violation of this policy through the NFL’s routine testing are subject to suspension.
As CNN reports, while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated that the League is not “actively considering” a change to its stance on marijuana, the NFL Players Association, backed by Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, is investigating potential benefits to a more hands-off approach. Noting a study by the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, injured and rehabbing players could substitute medicinal marijuana for opioid painkillers, which over half of all retired players used at some point during their career and 71% of those players abusing them. Additionally, a more tolerant approach could have the practical effect of reducing suspensions, ensuring that star players remain on the field as much as possible.
While immediate policy change appears unlikely, discussions are expected to intensify in 2020 when the current CBA expires and as research into the potential health benefits and risks of marijuana continues.