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NFL Players Association leaders are working on a proposal that would take a “less punitive” approach to dealing with recreational marijuana use by players, according to DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the union.

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DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Union:
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate”

The proposal will go to the union’s board of player representatives on Thursday, Smith said, reports Mark Miske at The Washington Post. If those players approve it, it will go the NFL. The NFL would have to agree to any changes in drug policy, which is negotiated and jointly enforced by the league and the players’ union.

The proposal comes as the NFLPA’s recently formed pain management committee separately studies cannabis use by NFL players for pain management, and whether that should be allowed.

“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” Smith told Washington Post reporters and editors. “I think it’s important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it’s important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it’s being used.”

Current NFL Ban

The NFL currently bans marijuana use, thus positive tests or even missed tests can result in steep fines and suspensions for players.

Back in 2014, the league and union agreed to ever-so-slight changes in marijuana policy. The threshold for what constitutes a “positive test” for cannabis was relaxed. The limit had been 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter or urine or blood. That was the strictest standard in professional sports. The limit was raised to 35 ng/ml for a positive test.

Four missed or positive tests will trigger a four-game, unpaid suspension. The first violation gets players a referral to the substance abuse program. Second violations come with a fine equivalent to two game checks for the player. Third violations result in a fine equivalent to four game checks.

A fifth violation results in a 10-game suspension, and a sixth violation results in one-year banishment from the NFL.

Smith said he didn’t know how receptive the NFL will be to the proposal to relax recreational marijuana policy. “I don’t spend time thinking about what the league thinks,” he said. “If our board approves the proposal, we’ll sit down with the league and we will make the proposal to them.”


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