The National Football Association and its Players Union have approved a new collective bargaining agreement that includes reduced penalties for positive cannabis tests, the Sporting News reports. Under the agreement players will no longer be suspended for positive tests and the threshold for failing a test is now 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, up from 35 nanograms.
Under the new rules, if a player tests positive for cannabis during the two-week training camp their test is reviewed by a board of medical professionals appointed by the NFLPA and the league who determine whether the player needs treatment for drug abuse. That two-week window for cannabis testing was shortened from four months, which means that less players will be tested for cannabis.
Under the league’s old rules, 10 players per team were randomly selected to be tested each week during the regular season and a first positive test meant a referral to the substance abuse program. A second violation led to a two game check fine, while a third violation was for four game checks. A fourth violation resulted in a four-game suspension, a fifth violation was a 10-game suspension, and a sixth violation led to a one-year suspension.
Previously, the NFL had the strictest cannabis-related rules in professional American sports and with the rule changes just the National Basketball Association has a drug policy among the four major sports leagues in the U.S. that includes suspensions for cannabis use.
Last year the NFL and NFLPA announced the creation of a Joint Pain Management Committee that reportedly would include cannabis and cannabinoids as part of its research into pain management and alternative therapies. Nine of the leagues 32 teams play their home games in states that have legalized cannabis for adult use.