The NFL proposed shrinking the drug testing window from four months to two weeks, as well as dramatically reducing penalties for positive tests.
The National Football League maintains the harshest substance use policy in professional sports. Testing positive for marijuana use could ultimately result in a player’s indefinite ban from the league. Ahead of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations, players want the league to decriminalize marijuana, as Major League Baseball did last year.
The NFL also has a rather wide testing window for players, beginning April 20 and ending in early August. Yes, the NFL begins testing players for marijuana on 4/20. Players also receive these tests at random, meaning they must remain clean throughout the four-month window, which coincides with offseason training and practices.
According to NBC’s ProFootballTalk, that could soon change. The new CBA offered by the NFL includes a clause that would reduce the four-month drug testing window into a two-week period. If a player hasn’t previously tested positive for marijuana, this would dramatically reduce the duration they had to refrain from cannabis use. Those players in the program — meaning they have tested positive for weed in the past — would remain subject to “enhanced testing.”
In addition, the drug policy would seriously reduce penalties for positive testing. Suspensions would only occur “in the event of extreme and repeated disregard of the policy or significant violations of applicable law regarding the possession and use of marijuana,” reports ProFootballTalk.
This won’t legalize marijuana under the NFL’s internal judicial system, by any means. But it essentially announces to players the NFL will back off from pursuing and persecuting cannabis use for players. It’s effectively decriminalization, though it isn’t known when the two-week period for drug testing would occur.
That doesn’t mean professional football is exactly embracing marijuana. Last month, the NFL concluded through an internal research and reporting effort there was not sufficient evidence to recommend CBD use to players. “CBD is a promising compound, but the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence,” co-chairs of the NFL pain management committee wrote in a white paper sent to teams.