NFLPA looking at possible changes to substance-abuse policy

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The NFL Players Association has gathered for its annual meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. And one of the topics will be potential changes to the rules regarding the consumption of a substance that, while not yet legal for recreational purposes in Arizona, can be smoked in multiple states where the NFL does business.

Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains that a potential proposal to the NFL for revising the substance-abuse policy is, as expected, on the agenda for the meetings.

“How we treat marijuana as a substance is a focus, but it’s not necessarily the only substance we will be looking at,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told Craig. “We’re trying to approach this in a comprehensive way for pain management as opposed to just, ‘Are we going discipline players for smoking or not?’ It’s more, ‘What are we going to do to present the league with a way that we can help players deal with pain addiction, opioid use,’ things like that.”

None of this means that a proposal is coming soon from the union.

“I don’t expect there will be a proposal ready to present to the league [this week],” Atallah said. “I think the realistic expectation is to have a candid discussion with the players about how the policies are working now . . . and how they want to move forward. Our philosophy is to try to make [penalties for marijuana use] less punitive and more supportive of players who may need assistance.”

Countering that objective is the reality that the NFL will surely want concessions from the players in exchange for any changes to the policy. Likewise, the potential for federal enforcement of laws against marijuana use for recreational purposes could reduce some of the public pressure on Big Shield to quit playing Big Brother to guys who choose to smoke marijuana on their own time when away from work.

Then there’s the inescapable reality that 99 percent or more of the league’s players understand the procedure for avoiding a positive test result. One, quit smoking in the middle of March. (As in, like, now.) Two, wait for the annual substance-abuse test, which can happen at any point between April 20 (yes, 4/20) and August. Three, after the annual test, smoke ’em if you got ’em.

What the NFLPA needs to ask itself is whether all players want to make a concession that ultimately helps only the small percentage of them that can’t or won’t stay away from marijuana long enough to generate one clean urine sample per year. Most players, frankly, should be opposed to giving up anything that would benefit a handful of players every year.

19 responses to “NFLPA looking at possible changes to substance-abuse policy

  1. As someone on the fence for the legality of marijuana in this country, I think it is very important they take a look at these studies. There are many positives that come with players using cannabis than using opioids but it’s dangerous to endorse something that almost half the country doesn’t believe in. I think they should make it legal but I also think it needs to be carefully distributed unlike the opioids they use and abuse

  2. the nfl needs to gather the best team of lawyers they got and dismantle themselves from the pharmaceutical industry. I’m sure that will never happen in 100 years though. and what would make me even more mad is if they wait till josh gordon is 35 years old before they Make any real changes

  3. I feel like if the nfl became more accepting of weed it would have such a huge impact that it would even trickle down all the way to everyday working people

  4. Sometimes all it takes is that one industry to take that first step. why not the nfl? oh yeah and check out those studies on smoking weed and concussions

  5. its no secret that like 60 plus percent of nfl players smoke in the ofseason end the witch hunt stop ending careers over a plant it doesn’t improve performance it’s not a PED

  6. Concussions can obviously cause problems with migraines, depression, and even seizures; all of which medicinal cannabis is able to treat, and with far less of the negative side effects associated with prescription pills.

    And recreational cannabis is far safer than drinking or abusing prescription medication. If I am a head coach, owner, gm, whatever, I would much rather have a player who smokes and goes home to their couch rather than drinking and going to strip clubs.

  7. For some reason I read “NFL” looking into substance abuse changes…not a Patriots fan but immediately thought Goodell was gonna find something, anything, in Brady’s last piss test to suspend him. Maybe like a 12 game suspension to “set an example” for offenders.

  8. With trump as President there will no doubt be stricter application of the federal prohibition.

  9. Oh I see how it works! The normal working guy looses his job and/or goes to jail, pay a fine! But if you play in the NFL, those laws don’t abide to them!! Why? Because the NFL is above the law!! If they test positive they should be required to go in patient treatment for one year! No PAY! No play!! Child BEATER Peterson admitted he was smoking weed and received no punishment at all!
    The NFL is going, downhill fast!

  10. I don’t know how big a “handful” is, but I’d guess it’s 20% of the players. There seems to be a movement to reduce the reaches of the federal government. Maybe the NFL will follow the leaders in Washington and just stop testing altogether.

  11. People who have been in actual car crashes smoke to alleviate pain. Guys involved in something like a car crash, weekly, have synthetic weed?

  12. For guys like the Bills Seantrel Henderson a rule change is necessary. That’s a guy that has a legitimate claim to medicinal usage, and the NFL suits just cast him in the suspended pile like a piece of trash.

  13. Players smoking February- July are more likely than not smoking for recreational reasons and not pain-management.

  14. You forgot one other thing that players should never, ever do, and as a lawyer, I’m surprised you left this out: Don’t ever have the substance in your car. The courts are generous when allowing for searches for being pulled over for such egregious offences as, say, supposedly not using your turn signal.

  15. I wouldn’t count on it being legal much longer. Trump is looking for examples, and right or wrong, he’s going to flex muscle.

    The whole legalized weed thing is a prime target for him.

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