When it comes to legalized marijuana, substance-abuse policy isn’t as clear as NFL thinks

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On Tuesday, enough voters in Colorado and Washington showed up and cast ballots to legalize marijuana in both states (so much for pot making you lazy).  On Wednesday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA Today that the legalization of marijuana in both states won’t change the application of the league’s rule prohibiting use of the substance.

Aiello said that marijuana remains prohibited under the substance-abuse policy.  But a reading of the substance-abuse policy suggests otherwise.

The policy prohibits only the “illegal use” of marijuana.  While players may not abuse legal substances like alcohol, legal drugs and alcohol may be used.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that members of the Broncos and Seahawks should celebrate with a little waking and baking.  For starters, a fight with federal officials is potentially looming before the new state laws will become effective.  If/when they do, however, the NFL will have to deal with the plain language of its substance-abuse policy.

The tweaking of the terms of the policy necessarily will become caught in the frozen-molasses effort to implement HGH testing, since neither the policy against steroids and related substances nor the substance-abuse policy have been finalized in the wake of the August 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

As written, the substance-abuse policy allows the legal use, but not the abuse, or marijuana.  Until that’s changed, it’s a potential problem for the NFL.

And it provides an unlikely recruiting tool for the Broncos and the Seahawks.

86 responses to “When it comes to legalized marijuana, substance-abuse policy isn’t as clear as NFL thinks

  1. It is still federally illegal thus not an issue.

    Now, someone tell me how the NFL gets past OSHA

    Can you imagine going to work each year knowing you have have about a 15% chance of requiring surgery as a result of your work that year?

  2. The substance abuse policy bans illegal use of marijuana. Marijuana is still illegal according to federal law in Colorado and Washington. Seems pretty clear to me.

  3. It will be an interesting fight for the Feds…..with a Supreme Court edging closer to overturning Roe v. Wade…..which has an underlying theme that certain powers should be left to the states. If the new state laws,are held to be unconstitutional……the players shouldn’t necessarily worry ….the owners have ignored certain Federal laws in the past!

  4. Mike, you know federal law trumps state and local statutes. Any players that try to hide behind the Colorado and Washington laws will get “smoked” by the NFL.

  5. gregbeau says:
    Nov 7, 2012 8:20 PM
    Marijuana will be a scourge. Mark my words.


    Hello 1923, say hi to my Grandmother.

  6. In a related story Ricky Williams just signed with the broncos, giving new meaning to the “mile high” city

  7. they are filming the next Friday movie on set in Colorado, and Cheech and Colorado is the new comedy act out now, insane in the membrane

  8. For those asking about OSHA, The NFL incident rate lingers just under the 3.o mark. A group of 250 office workers will clock in around the .5-1.0 mark in your average office space. In comparison the NFL isn’t that bad. The severity case rate may be a little higher, but nothing that would threaten the NFL fine-wise.

    The fact that the NFL is trying to reduce significant injuries would actually grant them a bit more leniency from OSHA, assuming they were even concerned with the NFL.

  9. How is weed “performance enhancing?” If anything, it should hold players back, if memory serves

    what memory?? most stoners have a memory attention span of 3 minutes

  10. If a player ever brought this loophole to the NFL after being caught, the NFL would simply tell them that it is illegal federally.

  11. You cannot overrule states’ sovereignty, Roger. You think those concussion lawsuits are something, wait until you try to suspend guys (even visiting players who decide to blow out a bowl when they’re in Denver to play the Broncos or in Seattle facing the Seabags) for failing a test — even if the test is held six weeks afterward in their home state. They can easily say that they smoked in WA or CO and the burden of proof will be on the league to dispute it. You are not dictators, even if you think you are.

  12. Mike,

    what if a player were to test positive on say Tuesday and his “excuse” that from Friday to Sunday he was in Peru or Pakistan (thanks wikipedia) or wherever it is not considered illegal and used the drug. Even though it was still showing up in his system he technically used it legally. What if the player was on an Indian/Native American Reservation that allowed usage.

    How would that argument play out?

  13. The NFL doesn’t have to address anything. Marijuana use is illegal in terms of state AND federal laws. Removal of state law illegality doesn’t mean it’s still not an “illegal” drug in this country for usage. The language still clearly covers this.

  14. Unlikely recruiting tool my rear end!! Honeybadger already wants a tryout with either team! Seriously, it’ High Time, feds and others get real regarding the weed! Also, why wouldn’t a Oakland Raider with a card be able to use Medicinal Marijuana to help the headaches he gets from playing football?

  15. i could be wrong but i think that the nfl being an anti-trust federal law would override the state law in any and every state or the nfl would loose its tax exemption

  16. Score two for the good guys! True Freedom here we come. Pharm., Tobacco, Cotton, and every other big corporation that stand to lose money with this victory, will be lobbying hard.
    Annual deaths from peanuts ~100
    Deaths during 5,000 yrs of recorded cannabis use – 0
    Yea thats a big zero.
    It’s amazing what decades of propaganda will cause. Get the FACTS people. You will be blown away.

  17. The only thing stupider than the federal ban of marijuana is the NFL’s policy of punishing people who use it.

    It’s an elitest public relations effort that backfires because players get in trouble for failing tests, when they probably never would have gotten cought or gotten any press if the league just didn’t test for it.

  18. Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure are asking to be released from their contract with Detroit.

  19. if only the federal government would realize the money made from marijuana and hemp would rival that of big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies. would provide jobs and help dig us out of this building debt. but wait…it’s better to just keep throwing people in prison

  20. Stop acting like a bunch of frightened 10 year old girls and legalize it already.
    It should have never been against the law in the first damn place.

  21. It’s been LEGAL to have pot in your homes for almost 40 years in Alaska. It was 1/4 lb but they dropped it down to 1 oz about ten years ago. Here is how it works with the Feds- they WILL NOT mess with anyones pot in their homes. They REFUSE to try and bust thousands of people for their stash inside their houses. They WILL go after anyone selling quantities like might happen in Colo and Wash.

  22. If pot doesn’t make you lazy…
    How come 51% of the people don’t want to work…
    And voted to reelected Santa Claus?

  23. Although it is still illegal under Federal Law, Federal Law enforcement is usually limited to very large cases involving cultivation and/or distribution. There is no Federal arm overseeing possession. It will take a while to work out the rules but in the end the people’s will will prevail. I live in Washington and most people I know could not care less about pot or who smokes it. They are just tired of people going to jail and having their lives ruined due to possession of a plant.

    The only people this law hurts are criminals. I really don’t think the government wants to be on the wrong side in this.

  24. Dear Mr. Florio,

    The league might argue that while recreational consumption of marijuana is now legal by Colorado and Washington state laws, the supremacy clause dictates that marijuana usage remains illegal by the definition expressed in the CBA and thus marijuana remains a prohibited substance under league rules.

  25. maverick2560 says:Nov 7, 2012 8:32 PM

    It will be an interesting fight for the Feds…..with a Supreme Court edging closer to overturning Roe v. Wade…..

    Not after yesterday.

  26. I know quite a few people that spark up regularly, legal or not. Very few of them have successful careers and/or are reaching their potential. Same in football. Ricky Williams is the perfect example. Shawn Andrews will always be looked at as wasted potential, but at least he got his Michael Phelps on. (Phelps certainly wasn’t lighting it up when he was winning all those medals). With that being said, legalize it everywhere. People should be able to make their own decisions.

  27. udtfrogmanvet says:Nov 7, 2012 8:39 PM

    With the NFL being a national organization, the intestate traffic laws would make this a non-issue.

    Doesn’t “intestate” mean dying without leaving a valid will?

  28. I looked this up when Arizona approved it’s medical marijuana two years ago. It would be legal drug if a player was a patient and state law further states that you cannot be terminated for a positive THC metabolite test.
    The NCAA can arbitrarily add items which I am sure they will such as sudafed and others. I wonder how the NCAA will claim it is a performance enhancer though.
    Supreme court time!!

  29. With the 26th pick in the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos select Homey Badger, formerly of LSU…

  30. California is Legal. there is no scientific fact that it downgrades atheltes with their performance. look at guy who swims with all those Gold medals on his neck.

  31. Free the weed… In other news, Mile High stadium ran of cheese and nachos almost causing a riot. The reason that it didn’t occur, they forgot what they were rioting about.

  32. Federal prohibition of marijuana is based in the interstate commerce clause. There is no federal criminal prohibition against marijuana use. It’s possesion is criminal under the tax code. That’s why federal charges always involve trafficking. The Feds aren’t coming after anyone for getting high, and they won’t send DEA out to bust somebody holding a couple blunts except to make a snitch. You need to be holding pounds to get federal interest. This is a question Obama will need to deal with rather quickly, and if his approach toward medical marijuana is an indicator, he’s going to sit back and let the states try to manage the situation. This is a case where he can benefits from letting the state lead. DEA will respond to requests from state and local, but they won’t be proactive in these states.

  33. While I favor legalizing ALL drugs to get rid of the cartel violence, I favor it only if there is also a law passed saying that the drug moron’s family cannot sue ANYONE when their poor moronic idiot dies or gets a DWI, or kills someone. But until it is legal in all states the NFL has to treat it as illegal everywhere. Or the CBA is worthless. COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT. A Union thing. If the Union doesn’t make things equal for all workers in the union, then it is not a Union. It is a criminal organization.

  34. “On Tuesday, enough voters in Colorado and Washington showed up and cast ballots to legalize marijuana in both states (so much for pot making you lazy)”


    Brilliant! That is the late great Jim Murray (LA Times) like writing.

  35. I definetly got to go watch a game a Mile High Stadium. Just think of all the extra munchies revenue they will produce. Maybe they can even open up a special coffee shop at the stadium Amsterdam style and rake it in. Just think of the April 20th fan appreciation day.

  36. Marijuana is a very effective medicine. Its is effective in aiding very sick people in many many ways.
    Its sad how many people just listen to what they are told and believe all the stereotypes about the plant. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND FIND THE TRUTH FOR YOURSELF.
    If any one on this site knows anyone on chemotherapy they would know that 2 MAJOR side effects are zero appetite and the inability to get a good sleep. Mary Jane is a natural way to aid in both.
    Either way, I live in Canada and its legal here. It’s fantastic for both medicinally as well as culturally. I feel bad for sheeple who will go through life without experiencing the benefits.
    BTW alcohol is quite possibly the worst product sold in stores. It ruins lifes every single day.

  37. @briang. So Shawn Andrews and Ricky Williams unfulfilled potential because of weed? My guess is they both smoked waayy before they reached the elite status of an NFL player. but you assume since Phelps Won ridiculous gold medals that the picture taken of him was the first time he smoked?? Naive. Plenty of people are successes or failures without the addition of weed. How many people miss work,aka don’t realize potential because of alcohol and hangovers. really why is it your concern that people “live to their max potential”. If that’s the case everyone should be given doses of meth because it makes you work like 5 men. Everything in moderation my son.

  38. *Breaking News* Rams CB Janoris Jenkins has demanded a trade to the Denver Broncos. When asked why Janoris had this to say “I really just wanna play at mile high”

  39. waste money and resources on law enforcement and jails to police a criminal underworld supplying pot in a helpless attempt at prohibition, or legalize and tax it as is done with alcohol… Haven’t smoked it in decades and don’t plan to, but voted for the legalization in WA, and assume that most of the majority that passed it also won’t be becoming pot-heads either.

  40. I get it, but there is a reason Amsterdam made the stuff illegal. Can you imagine the entire state high as —t? It would be more pathetic than a good time.

  41. Ironically the nfl policy allows them to smoke those bath salts which sends guys into hallucinogenic fits of rage and munchies strong enough to prompt a DB to eat the face of a WR

    Yeah, good policy Roger

  42. Why don’t we fire all government people and start back at step 1?

    I love it. I know the whackos voted for it. Now, our federal govt sued tobacco companies for costs related to lung cancer and other things. BUT, they still allow the tobacco companies to sell product, per their “settlement”. Govt looks good, covers their butt and gets over a billion dollars, and they are complicit with the tobacco companies in the continued sale of the dreaded product.

    Now, 2 states are voting in more rights to destroy your lungs and get lung cancer. Not to mention other problems. Libtards will then want to go after those who legally sold marijuana. What will it be this time?

  43. To all the people that have a serious HATE on for pot, I have a couple FACTS to ponder.
    Firstly, alcohol kills more Americans EVERY YEAR than the entire ww2.
    Secondly, cigarettes will kill 440,000 Americans this year as well as 50,000 non smokers via second hand smoke.

    Marijuana will kill zero, 0, nada, not even 1 person world wide. Marijuana is not a drug that can be overdosed on. It just doesn’t have the capability to cause enough harm.

    Do u watch cops? How many domestic disputes do you see where some guy gets high and beats his wife or kids?None. Alcohol is the worst drug in America. Alcohol will kill 75,000 Americans this year. As well as shorten the life expectancy by up to 30 years.

    To say that pot makes people lazy is an absolutely false statement.
    If a person is lazy to begin with he or she will be lazy when high. If a person is a go getter, they tend to be that same after smoking. Pot doesn’t change who a person is. The same cannot be said for alcohol. Look and any drunk person when they are drunk vs sober. No comparison.

    DONT JUST LISTEN TO THE BLA BLA FROM THE 70’s when marijuana laws were stiffened. In the 70’s the president of the USA needed to get all these hippies off the street because the were a thorn in his political war in Vietnam. Interestingly enough the time those laws were passed so were the privatizing of prisons turning them into businesses producing products that were sold after being produced by slave labor in the prisons.

    Cmon man!!!

  44. bigbluecrew420 says:
    Nov 8, 2012 12:03 PM

    Firstly, alcohol kills more Americans EVERY YEAR than the entire ww2.
    What? 400,000 Americans were killed. 50,000 at the most will die from alcohol. Plus this site is about football. You’re wrong and not even posting about football.

  45. It’s not really so great a law for we smokers. See they slipped this DWI law in with it so that basically if you smoke, you better not drive. At all. Even sober. The amounts of THC in your blood that they need to convict you is there like a week after smoking one f%#&ing joint.

  46. people can thumbs down me all they want but i feel that any grown adult should be allowed to make thier own choices it dont matter if it’s weed,coke,pcp or whatever and having said that i also feel that they also need to be responsible for thier own actions as well.to me who do are law makers think they are to tell us what we can and cant do with our own bodies?btw alcohol is a drug that many people consume daily and has caused more broken homes,ruined lives and deaths than we can shake a stick at but yet anyone of age can walk in the store and buy it.does it really make people feel better if they loose a loved one in a car wreck if the driver were just drunk instead of that driver being hi? the action of the offender is just as bad and the loved one is just as dead. the problem is not the drug of choice it is the action of the user and they should be held accountable

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