The NFL Players Association is coming up with a proposal that would amend the league's drug policy to take a less punitive approach to marijuana use. According to the Washington Post, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the proposal will be presented first to the NFLPA's board of representatives, and if approved, will then be presented to the league.
"I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate," Smith told the 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 on the list of substances banned by the NFL and players that test positive for it are subject to fines and/or suspensions under the league's substance abuse policy. Smith noted in his interview with the Post that there are reasons other than recreation that players might use marijuana, such as pain management and depression.
"We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right? 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."
When asked about the issue in November, a league spokesman issued the following statement regarding any potential changes to the NFL's policy on marijuana:
"This isn't just the NFL's policy. This is a collectively bargained policy with the NFL Players Association. The program is administered by jointly appointed independent medical advisors to the league and the NFLPA who are constantly reviewing and relying on the most current research and scientific data. We continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries. However, medical experts have not recommended making a change or revisiting our collectively-bargained policy and approach related to marijuana, and our position on its use remains consistent with federal law and workplace policies across the country. If these medical experts change their view, then this is an area that we would explore."
The NFLPA recently formed a pain management committee that is studying, among other things, the use of marijuana to manage pain and whether it should be permissible under the NFL's policies.