The NFL's Less Punitive Approach To Marijuana Has Huge Health Implications
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The NFL's Less Punitive Approach To Marijuana Has Huge Health Implications

Players Union in support of amending the substance abuse policy

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The NFL's Less Punitive Approach To Marijuana Has Huge Health Implications
Azusa League

On Tuesday, leaders of the National Football League Players Association were prepping a proposal that would take a strong look at recreational marijuana use as a way to deal with pain management.

NFLPA executive director, DeMaurice Smith stated that this proposal would amend the NFL’s drug policies to take a “less punitive” approach to dealing with recreational marijuana use by players.

In an article, published by Bleacher Report, they interviewed 16 players who had never failed an NFL drug policy test, but each player except one smoked during the season, occasions vary from smoking pot after games, after a grueling practice, or after sustaining an injury such as a concussion or dealing with soreness and pain from the daily grind of the season.

These same players also said opponents and teammates use the ganja as well to deal with the season, how they are not a victim of the substance abuse program is those players played a calculated game with the NFL. In an attempt to save expenses NFL teams usually drug test all their players during training camp, the collective bargaining agreement states that players not in the substance-abuse program due to a violation are subject to one test for substances of abuse, including marijuana, from April 20 through Aug. 9. So all must a player do is withstand any use of marijuana, take the test and is clear throughout the whole season.

But if you do fall victim of the substance abuse program, you run the risk of getting smoked out of the league. Use of marijuana is currently banned by the NFL and positive or missed tests can result in fines and suspensions for players if repeated.

Standard protocol is it takes four missed or positive tests to trigger a four-game suspension without pay. An initial violation results in referral to the substance abuse program. Upon entering this program you are in a program that means you may get randomly drug tested ten times a month. A second violation is a fine equivalent to two game checks for the player and a third violation is a fine equivalent to four game checks.

A fifth violation results in a 10-game suspension and a sixth violation results in a one-year banishment from the sport, think Josh Gordon.

The NFL has one of the strictest substance abuse policies throughout sports, in order for this proposal to see lift off, it will be presented to the union’s board of player representatives if approved by the select few; the proposal would then go to the league. The NFL would then have to agree to the changes proposed to the drug policy, which is jointly and administered between by the league and players union.

So it will have to be an understanding amongst the players union and the league, the league has shown improvement from its last public stance in 2014 where they said they will follow the science in regards to the use of marijuana.

“I'm not a medical expert. We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that," Goodell said in January 2014. "Our medical experts are not saying that right now."

The science, as it is now, currently supports the use of marijuana to deal with the symptoms of concussions, although more research is needed. There’s a reason why the commissioner is receiving open letters from a Harvard psychiatrist in support of the use. Players are actively against the use of pain pills, they know how harmful it can be to the body. As well as previous players taking their life too early because they were dealing with head trauma.

Look at the statistic of how many players deal with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly referred to as CTE, in a recent study conducted by Boston University, it showcased that out of 94 players 90 of the have been tested positive for CTE.

If the NFL can really make a difference by treating these injuries and preventing retired players from losing their life over the game, they should really sit back and listen to the science and facts, it might be time to try something new other than prescription pills.

If this proposal to modify the policy goes through it will be in large part of the leagues recently formed NFLPA’s pain management committee. This committee studies the use of marijuana by players as a pain management tool and whether that should be permissible under the drug policies.

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