The true reason behind the NFL’s anti-marijuana policy

By Oscar Pascual |

The NFL may have reduced the penalties for using marijuana, but don’t expect the league to end punishments for pot altogether any time soon.

The league imposed a new drug policy in last year’s collective bargaining agreement that raises the threshold for a positive drug test while reducing the penalties for testing positive. It’s the reason why Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon saw his 2014 suspension for pot reduced from a full season down to just 10 games.

Meanwhile, players without a history of drug use are tested just once all year before the preseason, making it easy for players to go on a weed fast prior to testing.

“I’m not a doctor, but I will say I think as things change and evolve, where the league is and where the players association is, it brought us current,” said NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent in an interview with Sporting News. “And I think both organizations will continue to look and evaluate, so that certain substances are in the proper category.”

But the league’s new policies won’t do any favors for NFL hopefuls like Randy Gregory and Shane Ray, who have both seen their draft stock plummet this year due to marijuana-related reasons.

In fact, Gregory — arguably the best pass rusher available in this week’s upcoming NFL draft — went from a potential top-10 pick to falling all the way down into the second round.

Sporting News asserts that the NFL’s drug testing isn’t necessarily to deter drug use, but rather implemented as an IQ test to determine if a player is trustworthy enough to put the weed down for just one test.

“These teams, individual teams, know that their individual players smoke weed,” former NFL tight-end Nate Jackson told Sporting News. “I don’t think they’re necessarily opposed to it. I think what they’re opposed to, is their player testing positive for it.”

Sporting News notes that many teams are even relieved when their players are using marijuana instead of alcohol, since most legal and performance problems arise when getting drunk. But NFL analyst and former head coach Herm Edwards says the problem isn’t in the pot use itself, but rather, the inability to understand and navigate the rules.

“The choices you make are your choices,” Edwards told Sporting News. “But they affect the whole team. Can we trust this guy? And if he does have a problem, and the guys in the locker room know this, are they going to hold him up? Will they straighten him out? Is your locker room strong enough to pull him back on track and not let him take down what they have?”

Despite the NFL’s backhanded drug policy, Nate Jackson — who advocates for the medical use of pot in the league — thinks the NFL’s next logical move would be to take marijuana off its list of banned substances for good.

“Especially since the social tide is shifting,” Jackson, told Sporting News. “The stigma, the negative publicity, is the problem. As long as these guys aren’t getting arrested, they should do it. If you take it off the banned substance list, you’re taking it off the news, too.”

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