The National Football League is about to make a dramatic change to its drug testing policy thanks to a new collective bargaining agreement that was brokered between players and owners over the weekend.
Under the new CBA, players will no longer face suspensions for positive marijuana tests, and the drug testing period will be restricted to the first two weeks of training camp. The threshold for a positive marijuana test will now rise from from 35 to 150 nanograms of THC, according to ESPN.
“The idea is to focus the drug program on clinical care as opposed to punishment. Basically, if you test positive, your test gets reviewed by a board of jointly appointed medical professionals to determine whether you need any kind of treatment. The NFLPA deal memo also says that ‘violations of law for marijuana possession generally will not result in suspension.’”
The policy change is an enormous milestone for a league that has long taken a stringent position against marijuana use. Players have historically faced significant penalties, in the form of fines and suspensions, for testing positive for pot. Josh Gordon, a former all-pro wide receiver, has seen his career derailed due to repeatedly testing positive for marijuana.
Other Sports And Pot
The NFL is following the lead of Major League Baseball, which last year removed marijuana from its list of banned substances.
MLB unveiled the new policy in December, a little more than five months after the Los Angeles Angels’ Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a hotel room in Dallas. Skaggs, who was only 27, died after choking on his own vomit, and was found by an examiner to have alcohol and two opioid-based painkillers, fentanyl and oxycodone, in his system.
Under the new policy, agreed upon by MLB owners and the players union, players will be tested for opioids and cocaine, while marijuana will essentially be treated the same as alcohol.
However, last month, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem warned players that, despite the reclassification, may still take disciplinary action against players who run afoul of marijuana laws. Halem handed down other warnings — including one that effectively rules out a clubhouse toke during the seventh inning stretch.
Any player or member of the team “appear under the influence of marijuana or any other cannabinoid during any of the Club’s games, practices, workouts, meetings or otherwise during the course and within the scope of their employment” will face an evaluation for treatment, according to Halem’s memo, as reported by ESPN.