The NFL Players Association made a bold step toward softening its position on marijuana use, but it remains to be seen how the league will react.
In an interview with the Washington Post, DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director was clear in what the players want:
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate. I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”
The union, which negotiates drug policy with league executive, is working on a comprehensive proposal to make the NFL’s drug policy “less punitive” when it comes to cannabis.
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The union’s report initially will be delivered to the NFLPA’s board of directors. If it is approved, as expected, the proposal will be presented to league officials.
Marijuana is currently banned by the NFL. A player testing positive can be fined or suspended from the league.
The NFL, this year alone, has fined 20 players more than $10 million for violating its substance-abuse policy — and most of those of these incidents are marijuana related.
According to an ESPN survey earlier this season, more than 60 percent of players believe the use of pharmaceutical opioids would be reduced if the NFL OK’d marijuana for pain.
But the league is reluctant to budge. “Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a statement. “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains. We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”
According to a report titled “Mile High Potential: NFL Veterans Tackle America’s Opioid Crisis,”
Penalizing the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) makes sense. It literally levels the playing field. By contrast, the NFL penalizes marijuana use by players for legal and political reasons, not to maintain competitive balance.
The NFL’s anti-marijuana stances has become problematic. Former players argue that marijuana helped them avoid prescription opioids by managing their chronic pain, inflammation and neurological disorders.
The NFL’s over-reliance on opioid pain killers and its prohibition against medical marijuana mirrors mainstream medical opinion. American society is moving past the medical establishment and the NFL. It’s time for more enlightened thinking.
The NFL’s reliance on opioids to treat its employees is starting to create problems. More players are retiring earlier than normal in order to prevent long-term damage to their brains and bodies.
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And it’s not just a problem for high-priced athletes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014.