The days of NFL players being suspended for smoking marijuana have disappeared like a puff of smoke. The new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players revamped the rules with regard to marijuana usage.
A new NFL marijuna policy
The updated CBA, signed in March last year, reduced the testing period for marijuana from four months to two weeks at the start of NFL training camp. Players will only be tested for THC between the start of training camp and the first preseason game as part of the league's performance-enhancing substance testing.
The league's threshold for failing the THC test has also been raised more than four times, from 35 ng/ml to 150 ng/ml.
"Certainly, we see that society is changing its views, but views only change because key facts become more and more obvious to the people who make policy," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.
No more suspensions
This season, NFL players who test positive for marijuana will no longer be suspended.
If a player does test positive, his case will be reviewed by a panel of medical experts, who will then decide if the player would need medical treatment.
However, players who refuse to take part in testing or clinical care can be suspended for three games after a fourth violation, with stronger penalties for further violations.
A move away from strict marijuana rules
The NFL’s former marijuana regulations were very severe. NFL players with no previous positive tests were tested once in the off=season.
During the regular season, ten players per team were randomly drug tested each week. A failed test meant a referral to the substance abuse program.
A second violation resulted in a fine of two game checks, a third violation was a fine of four game checks; a fourth violation was a four-game suspension' a fifth violation was a 10-game suspension and a sixth violation led to a one-year ban.
No quick fix for suspended NFL players
NFL players like Josh Gordon, who is currently suspended due to violating the league's rules for performance-enhancing drugs and substance abuse, will not be automatically welcomed back. They will still have to apply to the league office for reinstatement.
Former NFL running back and long-time marijuana advocate Ricky Williams spoke to Sports Illustrated last year about the updated drug policy changes.
"I feel intimately connected to this piece of the new CBA the fact that they've decided that there's no need for players to ever be suspended for failing a test for cannabis," the former Heisman winner said. "And you know, it makes me think of my story, and yeah, I failed drug tests, which were at the time for a substance that's still banned by the NFL, but I don't I think it was a little punitive and over the top, and, you know, potentially almost ruined, ruined my life and so to know that, that's never gonna happen to another football player makes it all worth it, makes it all worth it and hopefully the message is sense to the world at large, I think (and) is powerful."