With Growing Support From Owners, NFL Union to Study Medical Cannabis

Published on November 10, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Football centered and near the fifty yardline

After eight of nine states on Tuesday voted to pass cannabis legalization initiatives, murmurs are bubbling up from sports media that NFL owners are now privately supporting the idea of making medical cannabis available to NFL players.

More than 60 million new people woke up after Tuesday’s election in a state where adult use cannabis is legal, and 28 states now have medical marijuana laws on the books—meaning legalization is no longer the exception; it’s the rule. The newly legal states include California, Massachusetts, and, for medical use, Florida, all of which are home to NFL teams.

In the past few years, more and more players and commentators have advocated for players to have the option of using cannabis for medical use, noting it could serve as an alternative to prescription painkillers.

According to reports Thursday, the NFL Players Association will conduct studies to determine whether cannabis might provide a viable alternative for to opioids and other pharmaceuticals. —marking the first time the union has publicly commented on the possibilities of MMJ in the league

“We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, told the Washington Post. “And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”

All told, there are now seven NFL teams located states where cannabis is legal for all adults 21. Nevertheless, the league would have to seriously overhaul its substance-abuse program in order for players to be able to consume cannabis for medical purposes.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ union runs through 2020. Two sides review the sport’s drug policies annually, however, and sometimes make adjustments. In 2014, the league and players’ union together agreed to raise the threshold for what constitutes a failed drug test for cannabis, lifting the limit from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 35 ng/ml.

An NFL drug test that comes back positive for cannabis can carry a wide variety of punishments. While the first violation typically results in a player being referred to a substance abuse program, further violations can result in a four-game suspension without pay.

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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