Football players who use marijuana have long been targeted by the NFL's draconian drug policy that led to countless suspensions. Now, in this new era of relaxed cannabis laws, that policy has been reversed.
In a new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement hammered out between the league and the NFL Players Association, players can no longer be suspended for testing positive for THC. The threshold has been increased from 150 nanograms of THC from 35. Drug tests can only be given during the first two weeks of training camp.
Remembering the Suspended
Wide receiver Josh Gordon received season-long ban in 2014 for testing positive for marijuana, Adderall and codeine.
"I'm not a drug addict; I'm not an alcoholic," he wrote in his open letter posted at medium.com in 2015. "I'm not someone who deserves to be dissected and analyzed like some tragic example of everything that can possibly go wrong for a professional athlete. And I'm not going to die on account of the troubled state you wrongly believe my life to be in."
Gordon maintained his failed test for marijuana that triggered an eight-game suspension in 2013 was due to second-hand smoke, and that he hadn't "smoked marijuana since before [he] was drafted by the Browns in 2012."
He was suspended again in 2018 and 2019 for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Gordon will likely apply for reinstatement until the new agreement.
In 2017, Ravens receiver Dion Waller (the great grandson of jazz legend Fats Waller) was suspended for the full season after failing several tests for marijuana.
In 2015, Cowboys lineman Randy Gregory was also suspended for the full season after failing or missing numerous drug tests.
Other Leagues Soften Drug Policies
The NFL is following the lead of other leagues that have eased their drug policies in regard to marijuana.
Since the World Anti-Doping Agency ended its ban on CBD in 2017, several other pro sports leagues and organizations have followed suit, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the Ultimate Fighting Championship and BIG3 half-court basketball.
In December 2019, MLB announced it had reached an agreement with the Players Association to remove marijuana, THC and CBD from the league’s list of Drugs of Abuse. As of February, according to MLB, “Marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct,” which includes mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and potential discipline depending on conduct.
MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark admits that the nation’s changing cannabis laws were a factor in the decision. “It was a part of a larger conversation that was reflective of the attitudes changing in many parts of the country,” he explains.
BIG3 cofounder Ice Cube says about CBD use in sports: “There’s something out there that can help [players] that doesn’t enhance their performance. To me, it’s simple compassion.”