Legal Issues

NFL Eases Its Pot Rules, But Not Enough

The National Football League recently went from 15 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 35 nanograms as the amount that they will tolerate in one of its players. As USA Today commented: “That’s not science-speak for one free joint a week.” To put the NFL’s threshold in perspective, Major League Baseball tolerates 50 nanograms while the Olympics allows 150 nanograms.

The Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Allen St. Pierre, explained that the NFL’s policy increase is hardly measurable or effective as “we’re talking the difference between 15 parts per billion and 35 parts per billion.” St. Pierre further clarified that a cannabis user does not really start to receive “any margins of use unless you have a threshold of 50 [nanograms].”

The NFL’s previous threshold for marijuana was so low that secondhand smoke often caused a THC concentration to exceed its 15 nanograms limit. The current theory is that the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association increased the allowable concentration to 35 nanograms to prevent players from testing positive from secondhand smoke.

NFL players are tested for marijuana, opiates, amphetamines and other illegal drugs once a year. If a player tests positive, the league places them in an intervention program where they are tested more frequently and potentially face penalties, like suspension.

Though the NFL claims that substance abuse may diminish job performance and lead to “personal hardship,” cannabis has proven a different story than abuse of opiates and amphetamines. Cannabis relieves stress and helps players recover from their injuries faster. Former NFL player Ricky Williams, spoke of marijuana in the NFL and commented, “It was better for my body. It wasn’t necessarily better for my career.”

Why can’t cannabis be good for both?