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NFL Players Will No Longer Face Suspension For Marijuana, But Do Still Face Fines

The new collective bargaining agreement approved by players allows them to use marijuana - but only if they are willing to pay for it when they get caught.

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NFL players, by a margin of just 60 votes, recently approved a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that changes how the league penalizes players who use marijuana. Under the new agreement, players won't get suspended. But if found using cannabis, they could still get fined.

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The agreement traded in one form of penalty for another.

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Overall, the new CBA focuses more on providing treatment for players who are caught using illegal substances rather than punishing them. However, the fines for using marijuana could be as much as half a week to three weeks' pay, depending on past cannabis use, according to Yahoo Sports.

The new drug policy changes when the NFL can test, among other things.

Under the old CBA, teams could be drug tested any time between April and August each year. The NFL could choose to suspend a player for marijuana use after their fourth failed test.

The new CBA includes the following changes.

  • Drug testing will take place in a limited period in the first two weeks of training camp.
  • The threshold for testing positive jumped from 35 nanograms to 150 nanograms of THC (at 35, it's possible to get a positive result from just being around those who use marijuana).
  • A positive result could include a fine.
  • Positive results are to be reviewed by a panel of medical experts appointed by both the teams and players. This panel will decide if the player needs any type of medical treatment.

The changes still leave many players with the chance of having to pay a fine for doing something that is legal in the city where they play—including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. Also, the CBA lasts for a decade, so there's no way to know how many more cities will be legal by the time it expires.

However, not having to face a suspension over cannabis use is a step in the right direction for players. It's just not quite the revolutionary step in marijuana policy that people in the space have made it out to be.

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Other aspects of the drug policy changed as well.

The NFL also has changed its approach to policing performance-enhancing drugs. Unlike marijuana, using performance-enhancers can still get players suspended.

The new rules call for the following:

  • A first failed test for stimulants or diuretics will result in a two-game suspension.
  • A second violation for stimulants or diuretics results in a five-game suspension.
  • A first failed test for anabolic steroids will result in a six-game suspension.
  • A second violation for anabolics results in a 17-game suspension.

In addition, the new deal calls for a three-game suspension for players charged with a DUI.

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