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Players' union wants NFL to ease up on penalties for marijuana use

By The Sports Xchange
Players' union wants NFL to ease up on penalties for marijuana use
The NFL players' union wants the league to ease up on penalties for marijuana use.

The NFL Players Association is preparing a proposal that would amend the league's substance-abuse policy to take a "less punitive" approach in dealing with recreational marijuana use by players.

The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, told the Washington Post that the proposal will be presented to union's board of player representatives.

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If approved by the NFLPA's board, the proposal will be presented to the NFL.

"We will sit down and we will present a proposal to our board," Smith told the newspaper's reporters and editors on Tuesday. "If our board approves the proposal, we'll sit down with the league and we will make the proposal to them. If we think that this is medically, scientifically and therapeutically the right position, then we tell the league, 'Therapeutically, medically and scientifically, this is the right position.'"

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Marijuana use currently is banned by the NFL and positive or missed tests can result in fines and suspensions for players. The league and union agreed in 2014 to modifications of the drug policy regarding marijuana, and the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana was relaxed. It takes four missed or positive tests to trigger a four-game suspension without pay.

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The NFLPA formed a pain management committee that separately studies the issue of marijuana use by players as a pain management tool and whether that should be permissible under the NFL drug policy.

"I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate," Smith said. "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.

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"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."

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