The NFL and its players, both former and current, have been at odds over the league’s antiquated policy on marijuana. Despite its increasing legal status—and a decreasing stigma surrounding it— the plant remains on the NFL’s banned substance list. But with the league’s current collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2020 season, there have been rumblings that the NFL would make the necessary concessions to accommodate its players.
Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones, who is perhaps the most well known (and perhaps most colorful) proprietor in the National Football League, appeared on 105.3 The Fan (KRLD-FM) to discuss the state of his team, amongst other topics.
For the most part, Jones remained mum on the ongoing labor disputes—something he said was in accordance with the leagues’ other owners. However, he did touch on the topic of cannabis and where the league currently stands on it.
“I think the world is sensitive to the issue regarding marijuana,” Jones said in the interview. “It’s also an issue contemporarily where we’re excited about being in step with the social and legal scene as it goes forward. And so, we not only have the interest of competitiveness in mind when it comes to any type of substance. We have the issue of the law, and we have the issue of the society focus on it.”
With recreational marijuana now legal in 11 states (and counting), in addition to at least some form of medicinal cannabis permitted in 33 and the District of Columbia, both the law and the overall zeitgeist around the plant has certainly changed since the NFL and NFLPA’s last collective bargaining agreement back in 2011. Jones went on to hint that the league would make the necessary changes to its oft-criticized policy.
“All of that cause and does receive attention when you’re discussing this area with players, and I think that you should expect and will expect an adjustment of the contemporary way or the present way that marijuana is being thought about,” Jones added.
Jones certainly understands the magnitude of the league’s outdated system, and he’s lobbied for a change in the past. His 2015 second-round pick, the talented, yet troubled defensive end Randy Gregory, has faced multiple suspensions due to substance abuse. Currently, Gregory is serving an indefinite suspension for failing to comply with a mandatory drug test. This is the defensive lineman’s fourth substance abuse-related drug test since he’s been in the league.
Another former talented Dallas pass rusher, David Irving, abruptly retired from the league last season after choosing “weed over football.”
Of course, it’s safe to say a change to league policy would certainly bolster the Cowboys’ pass rush. But it would also, undoubtedly, improve the quality of players’ lives around the league—not to mention save some.
NFL Following in the Footsteps of the MLB?
Jones’ comments also come at an interesting time. Just a few days prior, the MLB made changes to its own drug policy, removing marijuana from their banned substance list for minor leaguers while placing an increased focus on player opioid abuse and testing.
“As part of a new agreement on opioids being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, MLB will remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers,” MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal tweeted last week.
The move came after the untimely death of Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who passed away at the tender age of 27 after an opioid-related overdose. NFL players have long clamored for the use of marijuana as a less-addicting alternative to league-mandated opioid painkillers.
And it looks like they’ll be getting one.