At a meeting this past weekend that included only NFL team owners, the issue of marijuana and its future in professional football was brought up by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Specifically, Jones “wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use.”
In recent years, the issue of marijuana has come up more often than the past due to the plant's potential for pain management and the obvious long-term pain and damage that a career in professional football has shown affect those who participate.
While what Jones is suggesting seems like a good idea, it is a long way from becoming a reality.
For starters, Jones was reportedly reminded at this past weekend's meeting that marijuana is a collective bargaining issue, meaning the players would have to “make one or more concessions” to the owners “in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition.” What those one or more concessions are is vitally important considering that NFLPA officials have “made it clear for months that they have no interest in granting financial concessions in exchange for nonfinancial ones in any upcoming CBA talks.”
Then there's the testing the league conducts for marijuana; Jerry Jones wants it gone, but the NFLPA doesn't. The NFLPA doesn't want to get rid of marijuana testing on players, rather, “they just want to reduce or eliminate the punitive aspect of the testing process.” To them, it's still about getting people treatment that need it.
If the player's union gets what they want regarding marijuana testing, greater emphasis will be placed on the number of nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) on a urine test that results in a positive, and the player's union also has their position on players that should test above 100 ng/ml.
“[That] could be a red flag for an addiction situation or a player who's dealing with some sort of chronic pain that he hasn't previously reported. In a case like that, testing could lead the team and/or league to provide some sort of treatment for the addiction or the pain,” the NFLPA stated.
Currently, the NFL's standard for a positive test is 35 ng/ml. In contrast, Major League Baseball's is 50 ng/ml and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s is 150 ng/ml.
And of course, always looming over this issue is a group more powerful than the NFL and all of its players: the federal government.