With the Trump administration strongly hinting that federal law banning marijuana use will be enforced in states where recreational use has been legalized, the NFL Players Association sees no issue regarding its current effort to loosen the league’s current marijuana prohibition.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah described the situation as “a CBA issue, not a law-enforcement issue” in a comment to the Denver Post.
“We are talking about how players get treatment under our jointly agreed upon drug policies, not any advocacy for federal vs. state statutes,” Atallah said.
Technically, he’s right. But the proliferation of state laws allowing marijuana use for medical or recreational reasons has created the perception that the NFL is out of touch and drifting from the mainstream on the issue. If, for example, the federal government were to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances, the NFL instantly would be under immense pressure to ditch the outdated Big Shield banishment of conduct that almost always happens away from work, often during the various months when players are left to their own devices.
If the White House stops the current legalization trend and whacks the seven states where recreational use is now legal, the NFL will remain justified to fold its arms tightly and insist on significant concessions to change the current rules. Which will make it harder for the NFLPA to nudge the league to change.
As a practical matter, no change at all is needed for the vast majority of NFL players. The smart ones who smoke marijuana know that they should stop smoking roughly a month before the opening of the annual window for the once-per-year drug test (PED testing can occur at any time) and quit until that one test happens. After that, the players can smoke at will until the following March — as long as they don’t get arrested or have a bag of weed fall out of their jackets and land on the shoes of the Commissioner.