It has long been believed by some parties that the NFL was never very interested in being in the marijuana-policing game in the first place. The CBA proposal on the table allows them to take a major step back, in multiple ways, all while making it look like a concession in the players’ favor (though of course it is to the players’ benefit).
Under the new proposal, game suspensions for a positive drug test for THC have been eliminated entirely. Former Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant have been among the most prominent players in the NFL for having marijuana suspensions.
In Bell’s case, however, his first suspension came after he was arrested in August of 2014 on a DUI charge, and found to be in possession of marijuana. The league can still suspend players for a marijuana arrest—such as if you’re trying to sneak 157 pounds of it across the border.
But eliminating suspensions for a positive THC test is potentially huge, even if it may affect only a small percentage of the player population. A more immediate effect more broadly is that the proposal shortens the testing period for THC radically, from four months to the two weeks leading into training camp. Previously, the time period began on 4/20, I’m sure not without an observed irony.
Not only is the window for testing greatly reduced, but the total number of players who will be subject to testing will be reduced as well. That would seem to be a necessary byproduct of reducing the testing window several times over, though.
A positive test is now not triggered as easily, as well. The limit of THC has been raised from 35 nanograms to 150 nanograms, which my math tells me is four times as high (no pun intended).
More generally speaking, the softening of the drug policy would seem to open the doors to an eventual path for players to actively and openly use marijuana as a medicinal treatment for pain relief and other ailments that are part and parcel of their line of work. The league has previously acknowledged this possibility, so that is not incredibly surprising.
While this proposed change to the CBA is probably going to get a lot of press, it’s far from the most significant, however. There are several issues addressed in the proposal that are far more important. Still, with that said, I would like to see an end of players’ careers being destroyed simply for getting caught using marijuana, which is on its way to being decriminalized across the country anyway.