For the first time since the NFL’s drug testing program began, players will not be tested for THC, the main chemical in cannabis. After the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was passed last year, the move to reduce harsh penalties for using marijuana was successfully adopted.
Coincidentally, the off-season drug testing window began on April 20 of this year and runs until August 9, just before training for the preseason players begins. April 20th, celebrated as the official holiday for marijuana users for many years, has recently established itself in American society as a major holiday for the celebration of cannabis and its culture. Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described it as an “unofficial American holiday” last Tuesday.
What do the new rules that have been added to the NFL’s Drug Testing Policy mean for players?
While NFL players continue to be tested for THC after the start of the preseason in August, the severity of the punishment will be greatly reduced. Under the new CBA, the criterion for a positive marijuana test has increased from 35 nanograms in a player system to 150 nanograms. Equally noteworthy is that players can no longer be excluded from games in order to achieve a positive outcome. Rather, the league can pay players for up to three weeks.
If players test positive for marijuana during preseason training camps, a medical professional committee delegated by both players and the league will review their test. A decision is then made as to whether the player needs treatment.
In previous seasons, heavy penalties meant players not only lost their pay, but also missed games. A positive test culminated in a referral to the league’s drug abuse program. If a second or third violation occurred, players were fined two to four games. A fourth violation resulted in a four-game suspension, a fifth violation was a ten-game suspension, and a year-long ban followed a sixth violation. According to the new CBA, the possibility that this will occur is far less likely.
Political change and public support are due in part to changing the NFL weed policy
With the NFL’s decision to move from a substantial punishment for positive marijuana tests to a treatment and education-centered approach, the league has begun to reflect not only new legislative reforms in many states, but public opinion on how marijuana use should be seen. In fact, a November Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support legalization.
These policy reforms in the CBA last year were made possible by the NFLPA’s insistence on major changes in drug testing for cannabis. By agreeing to expand the regular season schedule to 17 games, the players’ association gained some influence over the league’s existing drug testing policy. Many current and former NFL players have also been strong supporters of these changes. Some of the sport’s biggest names like Rob Gronkowski, Marshawn Lynch, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, and Calving Johnson have drawn their support for the cannabis industry either through investments or through endorsements League have gained support.
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