According to a recent survey conducted by ESPN.com’s NFL Nation, most NFL players and President Barack Obama have something quite interesting in common, they both agree that marijuana is probably no more dangerous than alcohol.
Americans will remember that President Obama first openly expressed that sentiment during an interview that was published in The New Yorker in January of this year. That comment came on the heels of several states, including Washington and Colorado, passing state laws that legalized or decriminalized the use of pot. The survey was conducted amongst 82 current NFL players, of which 75 percent came to same conclusion as the President.
While this may be reflective of current attitudes in the NFL, the fact remains that the league has zero-tolerance for players who test positive for traces of marijuana. Under the current rules based on the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement and contract, players who test positive for marijuana on a first offense are referred to the league’s substance abuse program.
A second offense brings a mandatory four-game suspension, with any subsequent offenses resulting in more severe penalties (on a graduating scale) with a lifetime ban being the most severe penalty available to the commissioner.
It is clear that attitudes towards marijuana use are changing in the American mainstream. As a result of this, there are rumblings around the league that the current drug policy may be revisited when the next collective bargaining session is convened. In order to bring about any change to the current rules, both the NFL Player’s Union and league owners will have to reach an agreement. At this point it is not clear how strong of a position the league will take on this issue.
When asked about any recent discussions related to the marijuana issue, league spokesman Greg Aiello only stated “We and the union are guided by the recommendations of our media advisers to the program.”
Any future discussions regarding controversial issues between the players and owners are sure to draw extra scrutiny from fans and the press. The league has been under a lot of pressure regarding leagues rules and the administration of those rules. Josh Gordon, wide-receiver for the Cleveland Browns, is currently serving a 10-game suspension for violation of the drug policy (marijuana related), a ruling that took a while to come down.
The league is also dealing with a previous week of terrible decisions compliments of Ray Rice’s (running-back for Baltimore Ravens) domestic violence case and Adrian Peterson’s child abuse debacle. League Commissioner Roger Goodell, who until recent past was the NFL’s golden boy has been asked to step down multiple times (by large press outlets) because of his handling of a wide range of NFL disciplinary situations. Most notably, a 6 game suspension and 500k fine for a DUI and prescription pills for Colts owner Jim Irsay versus a whole season suspension for Brown’s wide receiver Josh Gordon, albeit he had multiple positive tests/
Regardless of what has happened in the past, it is clear that the next Collective Bargaining Agreement will need to clarify and establish clear guidelines for the penalties related to any violations of the league’s rules on marijuana and other prevalent substances.