As society continues to wrestle with the acceptability, or not, of marijuana, the NFL and NFL Players Association try to strike a proper balance regarding the permissibility of the substance.
For now, marijuana remains banned. But with a testing policy that is easily navigated and a schedule of punishments less onerous than it used to be, players can smoke for most of the year if they’re smart. And if they get caught, they have plenty of chances to choose football over marijuana before suspensions commence.
For further changes to happen, the NFLPA will need to make concessions at the bargaining table. And so the question becomes what concessions would be made to help the small fraction of the rank-and-file that can’t figure out how to smoke marijuana without getting in trouble.
“What will we ever give up for marijuana?” NFLPA president Eric Winston said on PFT Live. “We get tested once per year, 99 percent of them know it’s coming.”
In lieu of making concessions, the NFLPA apparently plans to apply pressure to the league based on medical research. Specifically, if the NFLPA can prove that marijuana is a better alternative for pain management than opiates, the NFL may have no choice but to embrace the substance, at least for medical reasons.
“Is this a better alternative?” Winston said. “At the end of the day the owners have to decide what they want to do. Do they want to make the game healthier for the players or not?”
Typically, the owners simply want to make their bargaining position stronger, which compels them to seek changes to the relationship that benefits the league whenever the owners can.
But if the medical evidence ever becomes clear and compelling that marijuana is a better alternative to opiates, the league may have to decide whether to abandon the standard approach to bargaining in order to make decisions aimed at the best interests of the players and, in turn, the league.