Marijuana is a banned substance in the NFL, but that doesn’t stop its use.
According to Ricky Williams, the former NFL running back and marijuana connoisseur, about 60-70 percent of NFL players smoke marijuana. Williams also told Sports Illustrated that some coaches use marijuana as well.
Although the NFL does test for marijuana, most players are only tested once a year, before the season starts, and they know the approximate date of their drug test. So players can use marijuana for most of the year and stop in time to get it out of their systems for their one annual drug test. (The testing policy for performance-enhancing drugs is stricter and subjects players to surprise tests throughout the year.)
Williams says he became a regular marijuana user during his NFL career in part to deal with the pain of injuries suffered on the field, and he thinks marijuana is beneficial for pain management. Although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been dismissive of the idea that pot should be permitted for that purpose, many other players have said they’d rather use marijuana for pain management than the prescription painkillers they can get from team doctors.
Williams says letting players use marijuana is letting them take care of their pain, and he adds, “the league didn’t take care of me.” If Williams is right about the prevalence of marijuana in the NFL, players are choosing to take care of themselves, regardless of NFL policies.