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 It appears as though reality is setting in. The NFL has long debated its rules on cannabis use, and it appears the debate is set to continue. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is signaling it is ready to revisit the league’s drug policy – this time to support cannabis.

Have the cannabis tides turned in the NFL?

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On Tuesday, the NFL Players Association announced some interesting news. According to the union’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, the Association is proposing a “less punitive” approach to dealing with recreational marijuana use.

Don’t get too excited. The NFLPA is not attempting to allow cannabis use. However, it is attempting to reduce the punishment for use. More importantly, the NFLPA wants to work with players to understand why they are using cannabis.

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? – DeMaurice Smith

Recreational vs. medicinal

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In a way, it seems like the NFLPA is developing a better understanding of its players’ relationship with cannabis. And yet something doesn’t feel right.

It is alarming that Smith alludes to cannabis use as a mask to psychological issues. Many NFL players have reported that cannabis use helps them to reduce anxiety, sleep, relieve pain, and focus.

When out of harmony, each of these will cause a person to become depressed. The NFLPA should be careful to accept that cannabis is a preventative measure to psychological issues as well.

A person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it’s not curing their depression. – DeMaurice Smith

Reduced punishment for cannabis use

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In 2014, the NFLPA bargained to make changes to the league’s drug policy. The changes moved a positive THC reading from 15 nanograms to 35 nanograms per mL. Failing a test the first time is punishable by referral to the drug abuse program. A second offense is a two game check fine.

And I am convinced that we should be looking at it a little bit more of the way that we looked at it in 2014. We tried to move more towards a treatment, addiction-eradication focus rather than punitive. I think that we are gonna take that to another level. . . . But it’s also complicated. – DeMaurice Smith

In those discussions, the NFLPA advocated that the league take an “addiction-eradication” focus rather than punitive.

Is this a compromise? If players are able to use cannabis but are then treated like addicts if they are caught – is that really better?

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