As the stance towards marijuana continues to soften across the country, the NFL Players Union wants the league to follow suit when it comes to punishing players who test positive for pot.
According to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, the union plans to propose new language that would alter football’s existing drug policies, with the goal being that the league would take a “less punitive” approach to players who are caught with marijuana in their systems.
“I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate,” Smith said, according to Mark Maske of The Washington Post. “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.”
Marijuana is currently a banned substance in the NFL, and punishable by both fines and suspensions. However, there is a growing movement among former players who claim that the medicinal uses of the drug are being ignored, most notably in terms of pain killing and fighting depression and/or anxiety.
“We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right?” Smith said. “So if I look at this myopically as just a recreational use of marijuana and miss the fact that we might have players suffering from depression, what have I fixed? Worse yet, you may have solved an issue that gets the steady drumbeat in a newspaper but miss an issue like chronic depression … where a person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it’s not curing their depression.
“So to me, as we’re looking at that front end – and it’s been a long process -the reason why I think it’s more complicated than just making a quick decision about recreational use is we look at these things as a macro-issue. And what we try to do is what a union’s supposed to do: improve the health and safety of our players in a business that sometimes can seriously exacerbate existing physical and mental issues.”
The proposal needs to be approved by the union’s board of player representatives before it can be presented to the league. The NFL has previously said it would consider changes to the drug policy if advised by medical professionals. A proposal from the Players Association, by itself, seems unlikely to sway them.