The NFL Players Association doesn’t think it can get relaxed cannabis rules without giving something up

Cannabis remains on the NFL’s banned substance list.
3 min. read
Marijuana hangs to cure at Verde Natural’s Northeast Park Hill grow facility. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Many NFL players feel cannabis products are a safer alternative to opioids. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The NFL Players Association wants its league to take a more progressive approach to allowing players to consume cannabis products. Many current and former players, such as Jake Plummer, see cannabis products as a safer alternative to dealing with pain than opioids like Vicodin and Percocet.

But in order for the league to relax its rules about cannabis use, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah believes NFL players will have to give up something in return.

“That has not been our experience with the league or the Management Council unfortunately in most cases,” Atallah told NBC's Pro Football Talk on Monday, when asked if he believes the NFL would push through less stringent rules about cannabis use without giving something up.

Atallah didn't specify what concessions might be at stake.

“This is clearly one that falls into that health-and-safety space. We know exactly how players feel after the games, what their careers are like, and what their lives are like after they’re done playing football. It’s incumbent upon all of us to take the hard look and see how we can help players. And it’s a little bit challenging at times to feel like the only entity who cares about these players as human beings, as men, as family men, when they’re facing health and safety issues. And clearly we’ve made some significant advances over the last six to eight years, but on this particular issue I think it’s incumbent on the league office to, and pardon my pun, keep up with the Joneses.”

Atallah's pun was a reference to the Joneses — Jerry and Stephen, the Dallas Cowboys big bosses — and their comments about NFL players and cannabis use.

“In my opinion, we should take a long hard look at how we’re doing this and see if there’s a way, a better way to do it," Stephen Jones told Pro Football Talk. "What that is, I don’t have the answer. But we have a lot of smart people that can get in there and analyze something and really make some good decisions and see if there need to be changes."

Cannabis remains on the NFL's banned substance list. In late April, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on an ESPN radio show that cannabis is "addictive."

Many criticized Goodell's comments as tone deaf, given how common opioid use still is in his league.

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