The National Football League (NFL) has one of the strictest cannabis testing policies in professional sports. The policy has been ‘improved’ in recent years. The NFL tests players’ bodily fluids (urine) to see how much THC metabolites are in it. The previous threshold was 15 ng/mL, but has since been changed to 35 ng/mL. To put that into perspective, the current threshold is still over 4 times as strict as the threshold to compete in the Olympics (150 ng/mL).
A very big push has been underway recently to try to convince the NFL to get on the right side of history. A number of NFL players (both current and retired), along with a very high profile team owner, have been calling on the NFL to drop its prohibition on cannabis in one form or another. Some are arguing that cannabis prohibition in the NFL needs to be ended entirely, while others sound like they would be satisfied with exceptions for medical use. The Uncle Cliffy team is in the end prohibition entirely camp, as it’s the only way to ensure that selective enforcement will not occur and that the NFL’s current policy of perpetuating institutional racism will be put to an end.
The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) has come out publicly pushing for a ‘less restrictive’ policy. Details of what that would look like have not been fully explained as of this post. The NFL made an announcement recently that it would be willing to work with the NFLPA on the issue, specifically as it relates to pain management. The announcement was heralded by many in the sports world, but the Uncle Cliffy team tempered our enthusiasm, and will continue to do so.
Articles have been popping up all over the internet touting the recent developments as significant achievements, framed in a way as if to suggest that cannabis prohibition ending in the NFL is essentially inevitable no matter what. The Uncle Cliffy team definitely likes to see the conversation picking up momentum, but feels that it’s worth pointing out that meaningful reform has not yet occurred, nor is there an expected timeline for when it will occur. For that matter, specific proposals have not even surfaced. The fact remains that cannabis reform in the NFL remains elusive. How long will it take for the NFL to update its cannabis policy, and what that update would look like, is still anyone’s guess.
Increased momentum for reform should absolutely be celebrated and embraced, but it should be balanced with a never ending desire to keep pushing for meaningful reform. A lot of work still needs to be done, and while there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a tremendous amount of heavy lifting that still needs to occur. Players, both current and retired, need to keep speaking out. Team owners and fans also need to step up and put pressure on league officials.
No one wins, including the NFL itself, when players are taken off the field for consuming and/or possessing a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol. The Uncle Cliffy team is confident that meaningful reform will occur in the NFL sooner rather than later, but only if advocates continue to fight as hard as possible to free the plant and not get complacent. The plant is not going to free itself just because conversations have picked up. Keep fighting for freedom and compassion. Onward!