Ricky Williams Wants the NFL to Remove Cannabis From the Banned List
NFLPA’s assistant executive director George Atallah says the union wants to take a less punitive approach to marijuana
The NFL Players’ Association has been working on a proposal for a “less punitive approach” to the league’s marijuana policy, but the changes have yet to be presented to the NFL and details of the suggested approach still remain unknown.
Ricky Williams, the former running back and staunch cannabis advocate, said at a recent panel at Harvard that the union is proposing to strip marijuana entirely from the list of banned substances and, therefore, would no longer test players for the drug in the offseason.
“I think right now the NFL Players Association is moving to propose that cannabis is taken off the banned substances list and recognizing that it’s not an abuse problem, but it’s a health issue,” Williams said at the 2017 CannMed event last week. “And research, even though there hasn’t been that much, has come to the point where DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of our union, has finally hopped on board and said, ‘OK, there’s something … we have to look at this differently.’ And finally the union is taking a step forward with it and has the players’ backs, and I think that’s a step in the right direction, to change this antiquated punitive drug program that doesn’t help players, just punishes them. They’re trying to take care of it.”
But the union’s assistant executive director, George Atallah, told The Denver Post in a statement that that’s not necessarily the case.
“We have not yet finalized a proposal to send to the league,” Atallah wrote. “We want to take a less punitive approach to marijuana, but it won’t necessarily be removed from the banned substance list.”
The NFL tests players for substances of abuse in the offseason and prohibits them from having more than 35 nanograms per milliliter of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis) in their system. If they test positive, they’re entered into an intervention drug program where they’re tested more often and face fines and/or suspension for additional failed tests.
Many players have advocated for the allowance of cannabis, both hemp extracts like cannabidiol oil that contain negligible THC and whole-plant marijuana, to help treat pain from football-related injuries. The players argue that cannabis is safer and less habit-forming than the narcotics they receive from team physicians and trainers.
Marijuana is medically legal in more than half the United States but still federally illegal as a Schedule I drug on the Controlled Substances Act. The Trump administration has vowed “greater enforcement” of federal recreational marijuana laws, but the union has remained adamant that their proposal is about the collective-bargaining agreement between with the league and not about the legal landscape.
A recent bill before Congress, however, would move cannabis to Schedule III, which would retain the rights of states that legalized medical marijuana and make it easier to research, two things that could aid the union’s push for an altered substance-abuse policy.
Original Post: The Cannabist