In the next CBA, NFL is prepared to make major concessions under the substance-abuse policy

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With the War on Drugs long over (did we win?), the NFL has begun to quietly realize the folly of its ongoing efforts to police the private lives and bodily fluids of players who may from time to time or more often than that enjoy the pungent fumes of a certain burning leaf. And the next Collective Bargaining Agreement likely will reflect that.

Per a league source, the NFL is prepared to make major concessions regarding the substance-abuse policy, especially as it relates to marijuana.

The details of the concessions aren’t known. A complete abandonment (and implicit legalization) of marijuana is possible, but if the league goes in that direction it would need to have a procedure in place for players who are charged criminally with marijuana-related offenses in the states where marijuana continues to be banned.

A delicate balance may be required. It the law of the land becomes “smoke at will as long as you’re in a weed-legal state,” plenty of free agents will flock to teams in states where it’s legal. So maybe the best approach would be to simply dump marijuana from the list of banned recreational drugs, and move on.

Really, who would complain if that’s what the league does? The NFL first adopted a program of testing players for drugs that have no bearing on their performance as a matter of P.R., back in the days when every third commercial on TV was the frying egg that supposedly mimicked the internal workings of your brain while “on drugs.” The world has changed dramatically as it relates to marijuana, and the NFL won’t have to worry about the anti-marijuana crowd boycotting games if/when players are allowed to do something that in many states where the league does business they are now legally entitled to do.

Already, the NFL’s relaxation of its anti-marijuana stance has become apparent. As it relates to players like Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, and Randy Gregory, the league has subtly but unmistakably been lenient in the application of the rules that apply after a reinstatement following a suspension for at least one year. Even though all three are currently suspended again, the league apparently gave them multiple chances post-reinstatement when the letter of the current policy contemplates a one-strike-and-back-out-the-door-for-at-least-another-year protocol.

So why not just dump the marijuana ban now? The problem is that the NFL can’t start abandoning its rights without a concession from the NFL Players Association, and the NFLPA will make no concessions when it comes to a once-per-year marijuana testing procedure that most players are able to navigate successfully. Thus, the best way to back off would be to pitch the cannabis issue into the broader stew of back-and-forthing that will happen in connection with full-blown CBA discussions.

Again, time will tell how far the league goes in loosening the current marijuana prohibition. But the league could be moving dramatically toward doing the right thing and getting out of the private lives of players as to matters that have no relevance to their employment.

68 responses to “In the next CBA, NFL is prepared to make major concessions under the substance-abuse policy

  1. One by one states are getting out of trying to police peoples private lives and the NFL should do the same…

  2. The problem is it’s actually a PED – of sorts – and classed as such by various world sports bodies as it increases short-term blood oxygenation and thus artifically boost training.

  3. “Plenty of free agents will flock to states where it’s legal”. Geez, let me make an enormous life/business/personal decision based on where I can smoke pot. God help us.

  4. Just because something’s illegal doesn’t mean it should be against the rules? Doesn’t doing illegal things go against those good ol’ personal conduct rules?

  5. Another problem is the World Anti-Doping Agency doesn’t just list it as a PED but a masking agent for other drugs. In theory better tests can overcome any masking, but it’s there at the mo.

  6. The NFL doesn’t care if players smoke weed. BUT, they are a business and a business needs to buy insurance for their employees. Insurance companies don’t want to insure people that are high so they require drug screening. It’s just like any other business anywhere in the country. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

  7. I personally don’t use pot, and I’m not judging people, who every now and again do, but how will they police it within the confines of the NFL? Do they get to smoke it right before getting to the stadium, how about half time? I’ve seen people that, let’s just say, over do it. Somehow, I don’t think those people would be putting out maximum effort on the field, thus hurting the brand. Like I said, not judging, I just think there will have to be rules in place. However, I see no way of them being able to enforce those rules. I guess the only real thing would be, if your on field performance suffers, you lose your job???

  8. If you are old enough to remember the old Phoenix Suns of the late 70s / early 80s, the whole drug thing can ruin a team. It wasn’t just the old Nancy Reagan scare commercials, there was a team issue. Should weed have been lumped in with cocaine and crack? Maybe not, but having players dealing with criminals to illegally purchase drugs is not good for business either.

  9. The league DOESN’T CARE about weed either way. It’s what they can squeeze out of the players union as a bargaining chip.

    Ridiculous to think the league should abandon a negotiated CBA point. If enough players want this, then they can pay for it.

  10. The question is will the media cease & desist in blaming the NFL (aka the employer) for all of the illegal drugs and crimes that are committed by players (aka employees)?
    This article seems to be the start of a media campaign designed to publicly force the NFL to cave to whatever the NFLPA (and their media lapdogs) wants.
    If that were to happen, and the players went buckwild…who would the media blame? The NFLPA…or the NFL?
    It should be the former but it will be the latter since the union (and its clients) is above reproach in the eyes of the media.

  11. this is good news. I know after it had been decided that cannabis was on it’s way to being legal in Canada, police all but stopped going after people for things like possession and consumption. (spoiler alert: society DID NOT crumble) maybe the NFL will follow a similar pattern and some of these young careers can be salvaged. can’t imagine how tough it’s going to feel for guys like Gordon and Gregory in a couple of years when players are allowed to use this medicine to heal their bodies and minds.

    ps, the war on drugs isn’t even close to being over, and nobody is winning.

  12. mgcbathroomattendant says:
    March 6, 2019 at 8:12 am
    If you are old enough to remember the old Phoenix Suns of the late 70s / early 80s, the whole drug thing can ruin a team. It wasn’t just the old Nancy Reagan scare commercials, there was a team issue. Should weed have been lumped in with cocaine and crack? Maybe not, but having players dealing with criminals to illegally purchase drugs is not good for business either.

    ——————————————————————————

    the criminal element is a good point, but you can legally purchase cannabis in what, over 20 states now? by the time there is a new CBA this number will be even greater. this will likely be a non issue. also, I would imagine it is something team doctors would be able to prescribe to players, similar to the way they are able to inject poison (vicodin, oxy, etc) into a player at halftime.

  13. Whole Foods has already indicated that it will be looking into selling cannabis in states where it is legal. If it’s not performance enhancing, the NFL is smart to take the lead in backing off on this. Josh Gordon’s issues more relate to mental illness than cannabis and should be allowed to play after getting a clean bill of mental heals and that has nothing to do weed.

  14. This is not some new moral issue for the NFL. It’s a bargaining chip. The League seems to have all the chips (drug policy, the power of the commish) right now, what in the world could the players give up other than their share of revenue?

  15. It’s crazy how weed gets demonized yet a much more powerful intoxicant is deemed morally and socially fine, can be bought in every gas station, and ruins lives at an astounding rate.

  16. the War on Drugs is over?

    Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: $47+ billion
    Number of arrests in 2017 in the U.S. for drug law violations: 1,632,921
    Number of drug arrests that were for possession only: 1,394,514 (85.4 percent)
    Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017: 659,700

    Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 599,282 (90.8 percent)

  17. Marijuana is an inferior drug when compared to other medications that are available to treat ailments that people say they use Marijuana for. It can make people with mental health issues worse and it does cause some people to become more violent. Just look at the prison population in the US, a very high percent of population tests positive for Marijuana. I am not drawing a 100% correlation but there is something there. I am tired of hearing about Joe down the street who smokes a joint after work to chill out. Most people who drink don’t get in their car and go for a drive, but we have a serious problem with some people behind the wheel who are impaired.
    My complaint is the cost to society that the rest of us have to bare. Higher medical and insurance costs, more law enforcement assets focused on drug issues. Higher taxes everywhere
    For some stupid reason the good old USA thought some 25 years ago that it could be the first society in human history to handle opioid usage. Well we all know that failed miserably…and we all pay for this mistake, no politician’s career has been sullied.
    I can make the case that most politicians no longer believe in personal responsibility and fully intend to spread these costs across all the people
    I stand for personal responsibility and if you want to use it fine, but you pay if you screw up…maybe there is an insurance industry here?
    The NFL is a private business they can choose in conjunction with the players assoc how they want to run their business

  18. “But the league could be moving dramatically toward doing the right thing and getting out of the private lives of players as to matters that have no relevance to their employment.”
    =====================

    The NFL is a PRIVATE organization. It can ask it’s employees to do whatever they want that the employee has AGREED TO AND SIGNED under contract.

    If my company gave me a $10m contract that has a clause that I can’t wear yellow shoes or face suspension, you can be I’m throwing out all my yellow shoes even though it’s not illegal to wear them.

  19. “With the War on Drugs long over (did we win?)”
    48,000 people die of heroine overdoses every year, the more we legalize drugs, the more deaths were going to have. Let’s be trite and smug about our efforts to curtail drugs in our country. Most of the people dying are underage or became addicted under the age of 18. If you think legalizing drugs will make that problem go away, you are so delusional.

  20. While the players are busy jumping for joy over this, they haven’t yet realize what they’re going to give up in exchange for it. More franchise tags? Longer season? Lower salary caps? Longer rookie contracts? The NFL knows that these idiots love weed and they’re going to take advantage of it to put more money in their pockets over it. What a world! ‘merica!!!

  21. It is reefer folks. And all the tired anecdotes, tropes and sheer ignorance and obtuseness can’t stop the fact that the evidence over thousands of years of use and the daily use by tens of millions today and everyday around the world demonstrates the sheer folly of the wrongheaded,generally corrupt,dangerous and damaging prohibition. People are high all around you.Performing at a high level in every walk of life. Prohibition is more harmful,dangerous,expensive and misguided than marijuana itself could ever be and it is ending. Finally.

  22. lynnko says:
    March 6, 2019 at 8:45 am
    Marijuana is an inferior drug when compared to other medications that are available to treat ailments that people say they use Marijuana for. It can make people with mental health issues worse and it does cause some people to become more violent. Just look at the prison population in the US, a very high percent of population tests positive for Marijuana. I am not drawing a 100% correlation but there is something there. I am tired of hearing about Joe down the street who smokes a joint after work to chill out. Most people who drink don’t get in their car and go for a drive, but we have a serious problem with some people behind the wheel who are impaired.
    ————————————————-
    Blah…Blah….blah….
    Take your pick…..Cigarettes, alcohol or prescription pain medicine kill more people a year than all illegal drugs combined….FACT!

  23. The problem is that it is illegal federally still, regardless of what States are doing. NFL needs to take its PR machine to DC and get it legalized there first.

  24. LEGALIZE IT! The only “drugs’ that should be illegal in football are the PEDs. Also if players smoked weed more and drank less you might see violent acts deter in their personal lives. Also let’s allow it at stadiums too because it would cut back on the fighting I see every year at stadiums full of drunk people.

  25. streetyson says:
    March 6, 2019 at 7:28 am

    The problem is it’s actually a PED – of sorts – and classed as such by various world sports bodies as it increases short-term blood oxygenation and thus artifically boost training.

    ———————–

    Yes – Cannibas is the new steroids. Think about what Metcalf would look like with 3% body fat. He’d be a beast!

    OK – but seriously, it is used for pain management. It is used for many proven medical applications. However, Motrin is also used for pain management. Is that illegal to the NFL? Is that a PED under your definition?

    We need to stop paying tax dollars to criminalize pot, and slap a sin tax on it and make money from those sales (on top of sales tax which gets skirted today, on top of business operating taxes… there’s a huge carrot in front of us to legalize marijuana). The fear is always that drug dealers making an easy buck would immediately switch to selling opioids, but they would be in big competition with big pharma in that market.

  26. When the New CBA comes up there is going to be battle with alot of issues I think players and there union learned there lesson the first time.I expect a lockout to happen.Put the Drug policy to the side how does Roger Goodell have the power to be Judge Jury executioner and players let that happen.Its going to be boxing match watch and see

  27. The commish needs to make major concessions on his power to discipline players. Right now it is arbitrary and unequal. The Beast Mode for example was not suspended for drunk driving, but Colts owner was suspended for doing the same, for example.

  28. The problem is that the NFL can’t start abandoning its rights without a concession from the NFL Players Association, and the NFLPA will make no concessions when it comes to a once-per-year marijuana testing procedure that most players are able to navigate successfully.

    Whether you like it or not, during a bargaining session sides give and take. If the NFLPA wants a concession on this point they better be prepared to make a concession on another point. I doubt very many players, who aren’t knuckleheads, are going to want to make a concession to protect a small group of players, who are knuckleheads, and that will negatively impact them.

  29. magnumpimustache says:

    If a doctor prescribes THC for pain relief, what’s the big deal?

    The problem is than when a substance like THC is on a list of banned substances. Plenty of things aren’t illegal but would still lead to a failed test. In this instance, THC is on a list of banned substances which means the doctor would have to prescribe something that isn’t banned.

    Tennis players probably have some of the strictest doping controls in the world and you don’t hear them whining about it. Plenty of players have been suspended for taking an over-the-counter product that contained a ban substance. When they can prove where the offense originated they either get a lesser suspension or have it overturned completely. It’s their job to know what they are taking and to not take things that will get them suspended. Why is it tennis players, and just about every other athlete in the world, can live by these standards and these “grown men” be unable to? That says something about those who can’t seem to follow the rules.

  30. We all know the facts
    Marijuana does not enhance performance in any way
    Marijuana does less damage than tobacco or booze
    Marijuana is legal in dozens of countries and American states
    want to do something good for America, ban smoking and drinking
    and while we are at it, we should also ban fast foods
    Stupidity, I know, but so is banning marijuana

  31. With how much the players have been complaining over the last 5+ years about Goodell’s power, I expect the league will make concessions on that as well……

    ….in return for an 18 game regular season.

  32. One thing that seems clear from the comments, and generally a no brainier, is that American’s view of drugs is shaped by the culture that they embrace, their religious attitudes, and so on.
    We are not willing to recognize that drug use and addiction are two separate issues.
    The vast majority of us are able to have a couple of beers and then stop there. Alcoholism is everywhere, but we abide it because most alcoholics manage to function. The same is true of pot smokers, but a larger number of people oppose it not because of any effect it’s had on the people around them, but because of a cultural perception that they can’t abide. They view it as a slippery slope to a changing norm.
    We are in the midst of a heroin epidemic, but after twenty years we are still feeling to come to grips with the root causes, over prescription of highly addictive (and misrepresented) painkillers, and the effects of the hopelessness in parts of the country that were hardest hit by the changing nature of work that eliminated good paying jobs for people of average intelligence and modest education.
    Addiction is an issue that is very personal. Prohibition has never worked as a means to stem it. But because we are a country that is slow to move on problems that require broad consensus.
    By the time we get around to a consensus, the issue has already morphed into behavior that is well ingrained in society, and becomes intractable.

  33. George Paras says: “how does Roger Goodell have the power to be Judge Jury executioner and players let that happen.”
    =========================

    95% of the players in the union do not get in trouble and don’t care about the issue. At least not enough to sacrifice another real financial benefit that hits their pocketbook for the 5% that are stupid.

  34. I would imagine that the league would still want to have some control over the image the league projects. Not sure you want to have this perception that your employees are stoners. But, the NBA, NHL, etc. make it work and I suspect that drug use in those leagues is not that different from the NFL

  35. This is going to be a HUGE bargaining chip for the NFL on the next CBA. I believe they will get literally BILLIONS of dollars in concessions from the NFLPA on the next CBA. I think the total elimination of marijuana from the banned substance list will be the offer from the NFL and I think it will cause this CBA negotiation to be both swift an easy.

  36. The endocanabinoid system is what the NFL needs to look at and allow those players who get head injuries to use cannabis whether its smoked or ingested.

  37. If it is ok for the NFL to let people smoke weed while being illegal in 80% of the country, how can you let owners fine players for kneeling during the anthem, which there are no laws against it? Why even have laws then? I’m a union electrician. If I get injured at work, whether by my fault or others, I have to take a whiz quiz. If I fail (by studying to hard ;]) i can lose my workman’s comp. Follow the $$$. Higher insurance for my contractor is the main thing. So I don’t do it and I only get 1% pay of an average NFL player.

  38. This should have never been illegal. It was made so by imbeciles and is perpetuated by the same.

  39. Here’s the scoop people …… The league is going to propose a stop to the marijuana ban. Of course , concessions from the NFLPA will be demanded , because that’s the NFL being the NFL… Anyways, what it will come down to is the League will want to control the distribution of it and also wanting to know exactly who and how many players are taking the weed . And of course, the League will want the Players Association to contribute money for this to happen…

  40. mybrunoblog says:
    March 6, 2019 at 7:28 am
    “Plenty of free agents will flock to states where it’s legal”. Geez, let me make an enormous life/business/personal decision based on where I can smoke pot. God help us.

    ———————————————————————-

    I think it is perfectly normal to make major life decisions based on being able to exercise personal freedoms.

  41. The downward spiral of our society continues and the overpaid spoiled jocks are going down right along with it…

  42. The best part of this is the idiot players will see this as a major win for them in the CBA while the owners say ok, we gave you pot and we’re going to keep more of the profits for us and the players will blindly say ok thinking they got something for free.

  43. This is the biggest bargaining chip the league has had in a long time.
    They should be sure to get lot for it before they roll over.

  44. Liberalsruineverything says:
    March 6, 2019 at 7:57 am
    The NFL doesn’t care if players smoke weed. BUT, they are a business and a business needs to buy insurance for their employees. Insurance companies don’t want to insure people that are high so they require drug screening. It’s just like any other business anywhere in the country. Why is this so hard for people to understand?
    ————————-

    If the NBA can figure it out, then the NFL surely can.

  45. You don’t show up to work drunk nor do you show up to work high, simple as that. If you do,it will cost you your job. Do what makes you happy without harming others.

  46. I don’t see this as a bargaining chip for the league at all. The fact that they have to continually announce and suspend players who are guilty isn’t a good look for any anyone. Yes, it’s bad for the players, but it’s also bad for the teams and, most of all, the league. Especially on top of all the domestic violence stuff that goes on. Fans generally don’t care or want to about hear it. So it’s in their best interest to completely (and justifiably) eliminate at least one topic in the list of many that continually produces bad press about the NFL, it’s teams and their players.

  47. johnthorpe says:

    How hard is it for people to just mind their own business?
    ==============================================

    No harder than it is for people to just not use illegal drugs and follow the rules of their employer who they voluntarily work for.

  48. mmack66 says:
    March 6, 2019 at 11:43 am
    Liberalsruineverything says:
    March 6, 2019 at 7:57 am
    The NFL doesn’t care if players smoke weed. BUT, they are a business and a business needs to buy insurance for their employees. Insurance companies don’t want to insure people that are high so they require drug screening. It’s just like any other business anywhere in the country. Why is this so hard for people to understand?
    ————————-

    If the NBA can figure it out, then the NFL surely can.
    ====================================================

    I’m glad you agree with the NBA’s anthem policy.

  49. It’s real simple, just stop testing for it PERIOD! Cannaboids in the system should not be illegal, it’s the % of THC that impairs cognition. Hemp based products can be therapeutic(THC < 3%) . But really, cmon NFL, banning players for years because of weed is ridiculous.

  50. God forbid that anybody does the right thing, just because it is right — without attempting to extract / coerce some beneficial bargain out of it. Business and politics are devoid of compassion and empathy, despite the people they purport to serve.

  51. I say let them use human growth hormone, cocaine or whatever else they want. No point testing for anything.

  52. We just legalized gambling are now making drugs legal and Socialism is being viewed as an acceptable form of government. Anyone see anything really concerning about this picture?

  53. The old guard will never accept it, and that’s what their minds are conditioned to do. The NFL should follow the nba pattern of just allowing a high amount in testing. Rather than “legalizing it, just allow a high threshold and DON’T BRING IT UP. It’s a plant, people. If you stay out of law enforcement custody, that’s all that matters. I puff everyday. But I don’t drive stoned. Never before or during work. Just be responsible. If you can’t indulge in any behavior responsibly, then you have to look into your own soul to find the answers. Just don’t affect someone else’s life negatively.

  54. “It the law of the land becomes “smoke at will as long as you’re in a weed-legal state,” plenty of free agents will flock to teams in states where it’s legal.”
    +++
    Not necessarily. It’s been shown more often than not that players follows the money.

    Now if a competing contract or two are close, you might be right that a player may choose to play in a state where it’s legal.

  55. NFL ownership should trade:

    You can smoke weed for YOU MUST STAND during Nation Anthem.

    Players would vote yes on this at a 90% plus rate.

  56. forget pot, how about letting injured players use steroids for a prescribed period to recover from serious injuries and get back on the job like any other patient.

  57. steelpenguin6687 says:
    March 6,

    2019 at 8:07 am
    I personally don’t use pot, and I’m not judging people, who every now and again do, but how will they police it within the confines of the NFL? Do they get to smoke it right before geor tting to the stadium, how about half time?

    That’s easy: they don’t. It isn’t against the rules to drink or smoke a cigar in the NFL, but there doesn’t seem to be a problem with it at halftime or an epidemic of people doing it before entering the stadium. And if there were that’s been going on as long as there have been sports.

    Ultimately if a player makes a poor choice (of anything, because I am pro the decriminalization of marijuana) then it will likely affect their play. Affect their play and they don’t get jobs. That is natural policing.

  58. Smart employers prefer their workers consume near harmless marijuana (at home, after work), rather than addictive, very harmful, violence-inducing, traffic-carnage-causing, hangover-producing alcohol.

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