A top National Football League (NFL) team owner and a star player said this week that they’re expecting changes to the league’s marijuana policy after the MLB announced it is removing cannabis from the banned substances list for baseball players.
Both Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady touched on the possibility of the NFL’s marijuana rules being revisited.
“I think the world is sensitive to the issue regarding marijuana, and it’s also an issue contemporarily that we are excited about being in-step with the social and legal scene as it goes forward,” Jones said in an on-air interview with Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan on Friday.
“I think you should expect and will expect an adjustment of the contemporary way or the present way that marijuana is being thought about.”
“We not only have the interest of competitiveness in mind when it comes to any type of substance,” he said, “but we have the issue of the law, and we have the issue of the society focus on it. All of that calls and does receive attention when you’re discussing this with players.”
Brady made similar points when asked about MLB’s move in an on-air interview with Westwood One Sports on Thursday.
“These are the signs of the times,” he said. “The times are changing and progress is good.”
“I know there’s been talks about that in the NFL as well, and I think the stigma is being removed. And hopefully they’re doing a lot of research into whatever benefits there may come from it,” Brady said.
Negotiations are currently taking place in a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL teams and the players’ association, which is the only time the owners could change their rules on drug testing and punishment.
“I don’t know enough about it, I am sure there are a lot experts out there that could weigh in,” he said.
Jones has historically argued against the NFL’s harsh stance on marijuana. As popular opinion has evolved, with 67 percent of Americans now in support of cannabis legalization, there are concerns that punishing players for using the plant may do more harm to the NFL’s public perception than good.
“The issue is, we have such visibility. We ask for it. When people turn away, we say ‘wait a minute, turn back around, look at us.’ We ask for visibility,” Jones said. “When we turn it this way, someone can have a hiccup and someone can have an issue and it becomes highly visible, whereas it might not be in the normal workplace.”
If an NFL player tests positive for marijuana in an annual drug test, it results in various fines, suspension and rehabilitation. A contracted player can be tested with as little as three hours notice. In 2018, the NFL collectively charged its players $4,000,000 in fines related to substance abuse alone.
Players are thought to side-step the process, passing the annual test and smoking cannabis for the rest of the year. “Everyone knows this game is brutal,” former Chargers offensive lineman Kyle Turley told the Los Angeles Times. “Cannabis saved my life, period, and it could help a lot of other players.”
Owners are willing to make the league’s marijuana policy less punitive, sources close to owners told The Washington Post in October, which would limit NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power when it comes to cannabis. The league and union are already studying the use of marijuana for pain management.
“I want us to always be careful as we are looking at our behavior,” Jones continued, “to not make it look like, as NFL players, that you’re inordinately bad actors. And so I want us to always keep that in mind when we’re implementing what our rules are as it pertains to any type of behavior.”
“Certainly, it’s gotta be legal. Behavior can’t be tolerated is not legal,” he said. “But if it’s legal, how we handle that, and how we test that, and what happens when a player doesn’t get to play because he’s been suspended, and the light it casts on everybody, is of interest to me.”
NFL team owners and NFL players’ union are currently in collective bargaining negotiations, a subject on which neither party can comment. In the past, the bargaining agreements have lasted as long as 57 days.