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Report: Several NFL owners and execs ‘eyeing’ change to marijuana policy

Courtesy of Kamil Krzaczynski, USA Today Sports

There seems to be a strong push from those within the NFL to change the league’s drug policy. It’s been a long time coming, but it appears that some of the most powerful individuals within the league want to see it adopt a more liberal approach to penalties handed out to players testing positive for marijuana.

After a sweeping victory for proponents of legalized marijuana during Tuesday’s election, two more states where NFL teams are housed, California and Massachusetts, legalized the drug for recreational purposes.

Following Tuesday’s election results, there seems to be growing sense within the league and the NFLPA that there should be a change in the substance abuse policy.

First off, the union announced that it was studying marijuana as an alternative to painkillers. This is the first time that the NFLPA has come out publicly to declare that it is considering a change (more on that here).

Secondly, unnamed NFL owners told Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole later in the week that they are in favor of allowing players to use marijuana for medical reasons (more on that here).

Now comes this report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport suggesting that several NFL owners and team executives are eying changes to the disciplinary process for those who test positive for marijuana.

“Based on conversations with 10 NFL team owners and executives over the past few months, marijuana usage could emerge as a key issue when the collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated over the next few years,” Rapoport reported.  “The team sources spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly about the subject.”

This is interesting in that it doesn’t specifically point to players being allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes. Instead, it seems the NFL is mulling the idea of creating a more liberal policy on the recreational consumption of the drug.

“Each of the owners support additional study and discussion regarding what the league’s stance should be on medical and recreational pot use for players,” Rapoport continued. “The majority of the sample size supports a “decriminalization” of marijuana that would make it more difficult for players to be suspended. Two of the principals involved in the issue said they are open to getting rid of marijuana-related suspensions and only issuing fines.”

Though, he did go on to note that a couple of those individuals who took part in the Q&A expressed concern over this sending a bad message regarding drug use, indicating that suspensions should still stand.

It surely is a quandary for the NFL. Should it allow marijuana use as a medical alternative to painkillers, that would likely set into motion widespread use of the drug. We’ve seen how medical marijuana has worked in states where it’s been legal. This is to say, there’s not necessarily strong policies in place to stop people from acquiring the drug who do not have serious health concerns.

Secondly, if the league were to adapt a policy that allowed marijuana as a medical alternative, it would then be forced to cut off that definition somewhere. How would that look?

The fact that it seems these power players within the NFL think this is going to be a major point of contention during the collective bargaining negotiations leads us to believe there’s been a lot of thought given to it behind the scenes.

This all comes as former Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe has been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana. It also comes mere days after Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills fell in line with Monroe.

At the very least, we now know that this hot-button topic is becoming primary focus of the NFL. Whether that leads to a dramatic shift here soon remains to be seen.