Players Ask NFL to Reconsider Rules on Marijuana

Marijuana is now legal in 28 states as medicine and six states (including California) for recreational purposes. And yet, many workers are finding their employers unwilling to ease their previous rules on drug-free workplaces. It’s understandable that most employers don’t want their workers medicated or high on-the-job. However, some are still imposing arcane rules regarding off-the-clock use. It appears the athletes employed by the National Football League are no different. football

These individuals arguably have a lot more clout than most of us, but even they have been largely unsuccessful in their efforts to compel their employer to relax on their marijuana rules. Marijuana remains on the league’s banned substances list. Still, an increasing number of players are asking the league to change that.

Calls were again renewed with the recent arrest of Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields for misdemeanor marijuana possession. The criminal complaint alleges investigators launched an inquiry into a suspicious package that was making its way through U.S. Mail. It was suspected the package may be related to drug activity. Authorities reportedly followed it to Shields’ address, where he opened the door holding what appeared to be a blunt. Investigators observed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the home. Shields allowed investigators inside, and reportedly showed them several other marijuana and related items in a cupboard, including a jar of the plant and pot-laced muffins and candies. 

Marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, which is not among the states that allow marijuana, either for medicine or recreation. The drug is still considered a Schedule I narcotic under federal statutes, which means players may have little protection from their employer’s rules even if they do live in states where the drug is legally allowed.

A representative for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation noted that medical marijuana is legal in 22 of the 32 cities where the NFL plays. The medical organization employs several retired and active NFL player who are asking the league to overturn the ban. Derrick Morgan, a linebacker from Tennessee, along with more than half a dozen former players in November that asked the NFL to reconsider its position. The letter cited the plant’s medicinal properties, particularly for treatment of pain – something many NFL players current and former grapple with. Marijuana, they say, provides a less dangerous, less addictive alternative. Additionally, they assert, it serves to protect the brain from certain damaging conditions. This is an especially important issue for NFL players, who have always been at risk for head injuries and very high rates of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, they say, addiction to painkillers has become a serious problem in the NFL, with research published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence finding that more than half of all former NFL players used opioid painkillers over the course of their career, and more than 70 percent wound up abusing those pills.

In spite of all this, the NFL hasn’t heeded these calls for change, and they have no legal obligation at this juncture to do so. A spokesman for the league said that the inclusion of medical marijuana on the banned substances list is a matter that will be decided in collective bargaining between the players’ union and the league.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Cannabis conversation in the NFL, Jan. 13, 2017, By Aisha Morales, ABC-2 WBAY.com

More Blog Entries:

Marijuana is Legal in California, But Employers Can Still Use it Against You, Jan. 2, 2017, L.A. Marijuana Lawyer Blog