The National Football League is considering drastically updating its cannabis policies in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the NFL Players’ Association, according to NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. Under the potential changes, the league would suspend a player for cannabis use “only in the event of extreme and repeated disregard of the policy or significant violations of applicable law regarding the possession and use of marijuana,” the report says.
The relaxed policy would also close the league’s nearly 4-month testing window for cannabis to just two weeks. Currently, the testing opens on April 20 and players may be tested until early August. This would reduce the amount of time each year that players would have to refrain from cannabis use, if they aren’t already in the protocols.
The new rules would effectively ‘decriminalize’ cannabis use in the NFL, which has the harshest drug-testing policies of any professional U.S. sports organization. The XFL – a spring football league founded by World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon which launched earlier this month – doesn’t include cannabis in its drug-testing protocols.
In December, Major League Baseball indicated it was considering removing cannabis from the banned substance list for minor league players who are not on a team’s 40-man roster; players on the 40-man roster are not tested for cannabis.
The National Hockey League – which includes many Canadian teams – does not penalize players for cannabis use. Canada legalized cannabis in 2018.
The National Basketball Association bans cannabis use by players – which can lead to a suspension and fine up to $35,000 – but the league doesn’t test during its offseason.
The Pro Golf Association last year suspended two players within 12 weeks for cannabis use.
Late last year Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggested the league’s cannabis policies would be adjusted in the upcoming CBA agreement.
“I think the world is sensitive to the issue regarding marijuana. It’s also an issue contemporarily we’re excited about being in step with the social and legal scene as it goes forward,” he told CBS Sports. “And, so, we not only have the interest of competitiveness in mind when it comes to any type of substance, we have the issue of the law and we have the issue of the society focus on it. All of that does receive attention when you’re discussing this area with players.”
It’s unclear whether the new policies would take effect during the upcoming season. If the new CBA is approved by March 18, it would be in place for the 2021 season; however, the league could decide to implement the new policy this season as part of the negotiations.