Despite protests and increasing pressure from former players, and a study by Harvard, the National Football League (NFL) continues to ban its players from using cannabis.
But there’s good news — shifting state laws may soon make the ban increasingly difficult to enforce.
Nevada recently became the first state to prohibit all employers, except those hiring for particularly safety-sensitive positions, from rejecting applicants based on testing positive for cannabinoids. The state is also the new home of the Raiders, who have moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season — it will be difficult for the league to evenly apply its drug-testing policy across all of its teams.
Although the league doesn’t habitually reject new employees based on failed cannabis screenings, test results can lead to increased screening during the season — which can result in unpaid suspensions, such as those issued to New York Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon, and Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving.
With an increasing number of states legalizing cannabis for medicinal and/or adult use, it’s likely that the policy will be enacted in other regions.
David Irving was suspended indefinitely from the league in 2019 for his cannabis consumption. Instagram
The NFL continues to cling to the federally illegal status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. But other professional sports leagues like the MLB are revising or doing away entirely with cannabis prohibition for players.
With star players like the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski saying they would consider coming out of retirement if the NFL allowed cannabis use, and team owners like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones speculating that the policy could soon be on its way out, the NFL may have to seriously contemplate making a policy change sooner rather than later — before state laws do it for them.