Any change to the current disciplinary policy for NFL players caught with marijuana may not help guys like Josh Gordon, the Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver. However, this may be a moot point, as a new report is stating the the much-discussed marijuana policy change is not in fact on the table.
The initial report broken by ESPN suggested that the NFL and the leagues Players Association – who have been in talks since 2011 to renegotiate the leagues drug policy – were discussing a change such that higher levels of marijuana would be required for punishment, and that the punishments for pot-related violations would decrease in severity. Believed by many to be an outdated policy, the NFL does in fact have some of the strictest marijuana-based punishments in the sporting world, with even the World Anti-Doping Agency which regulates substance use by Olympic athletes having more lax pot testing standards.
According to this report, however, their are two supposed hang-ups: one has to do with the inclusion of HGH (or human growth hormone) testing being included in the new policy while the other surrounds who gets to levy punishments. The NFL is hoping to get HGH on the naughty list, and wants league commissioner to have the final authority in meting out discipline while the players association would prefer to have an independent arbitrator make those decisions. In fact, it is this issue of controlling the disciplinary schedule that seems to be the big issue.
The problem comes from a new report citing a source with direct knowledge of the talks as saying that the ESPN story is wrong, that the NFL is not changing the policy on marijuana as was originally claimed. According to this new source, neither changes to the amount or punishment severity have been proposed by either side, but there is a proposal to allow medical staff in the substance-abuse program to alter the time frame for a players maintenance in the program. The HGH issue is still on the table, however.
Regardless of the exact proposals being negotiated, the discussion surrounding marijuana in the NFL has been ongoing for some time now. During the Super Bowl, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll came out in favour of looking into medical marijuana as a legitimate and allowable treatment, and the PA is also hoping to have experts study the effects of this drug for medicinal purposes. This puts them squarely in line with the popular opinion in the US right now; currently, 21 states plus the District of Columbia allow the use of pot as medicine, with several more set to vote on the matter. Furthermore, both Colorado and Washington – ironically home to both 2013 Super Bowl finalists Seahawks and Broncos – have voted to allow marijuana made legal for sale, regulating the product like alcohol.
Regardless of what the new policy may ultimately look like, the reality is that marijuana seems to be firmly entrenched in the NFL. Earlier, this year, Steelers safety Ryan Clark made headlines with his comments that he knew a lot of players who used the drug. This echoes previous comments from Lomas Brown, former tackle for the Lions, who claimed in 2012 that up to half of all players in the league were smoking the drug. So, even if the NFL may not be changing its marijuana policy as reported, this would not apparently matter too much in the long run, given the state of the drugs use in the current league.
by Bryan A. Jones