It is important to the National Football League that the players and team owners get along and that players feel well represented. Oftentimes the players and owners get together to agree on new policies through the Collective Bargaining Agreement. On March 15, 2020 the NFL and the players union reached a new 10 year Collective Bargaining Agreement which outlines some new rules and policies going forward. Some things that were agreed upon were an additional regular season game, an expanded playoff format and more lax preseason training camp restrictions. Most importantly, players and the owners agreed on easing the restrictions on marijuana use. Under this new rule players will only be tested for the drug in a short window: two weeks before summer training camp begins. With the new rule, the drug test will only come back positive if 150 nanograms of marijuana is detected in the players system. The old rule triggered a positive result if 35 nanograms of marijuana was detected. With the new agreement, players will no longer be suspended if they test positive. This is a big win for both the players, owners and fans. They will not be held out of important games due to a drug that is medically accepted in many parts of the country. This new agreement on marijuana is following the trend in the country and will be beneficial to NFL players who turn to painkillers instead of marijuna because it was so looked down upon.
One thing that the players were frustrated about with the old marijuana policy was that it was way too strict, even more than most local and state laws. Back in 2017, the NFL commissioner Roger Goddell was concerned about the “addictive nature” of marijuana, but at the same time, 29 states had already approved the use of medical marijuana. With progressing state and federal regulations, it was only right for Roger Goddell and the NFL to ease the penalties as well. It is no secret that most NFL players are already using marijuana to help with their pain. It is estimated that 89 percent of NFL players use the drug. Martellus Bennet, an NFL player who is an advocate for the use of marijuana in the league gave his first hand opinion about the painkillers. He stated that anti-inflammatory pills that are taken for a while can “eat at your liver or your kidneys.” With many players already using marijuana because they see it as a safer option than pills, it is appropriate for the NFL to ease the rules. Players do not have to be as afraid to use marijuana as an alternative now that they won’t be suspended. This will lead to them not letting down their teammates, coaches and fans.
One hope with this new agreement is that players will begin to shy away from using painkiller pills to help them deal with pain. Football is a brutal contact sport and many players have injuries that linger throughout the season. Players are often prescribed pain killers. Many players and studies have lobbied that marijuana is less addictive than painkillers. The statistics about the use of opioid painkillers by NFL and retired NFL players show that they are being abused. Currently retired NFL players misuse painkillers at a rate four times greater than that of the general population. 51 percent of retired NFL players admitted that they used painkillers during their career, and out of those players, 71 percent admitted to misusing the drug. This is an alarming number, showing that there is a clear problem with misusing painkillers in the league. Another important statistic is that players who misused the prescription while playing in the NFL were three times more likely to misuse the drug in their retired life than players who properly used the prescription. If players are allowed to use other pain relief drugs, like marijuana which many say is less addictive, then I would hope and expect that these frightening numbers about opioid abuse would drop significantly.
Overall, I believe that the Collective Bargaining Agreement was a step in the right direction for the NFL. Previous rules were too strict on the players, and could have them missing a chunk of the season. I think if players want to try alternate pain relievers instead of addictive opioid painkillers, they should be allowed to do so. Going forward, I believe that marijuana will eventually be completely legal in the NFL. As more data will suggest, it is a viable option to reduce pain without being addictive. I am excited to see how it plays out as more states continue to legalize marijuana throughout the country.
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