Weed Culture

Can NFL Players Smoke Weed?

nfl logo in front of wall of footballs

The NFL is known for shaking things up – well, at least when it comes to its policies. But one area where the league has been doing the touchdown dance of policy evolution is cannabis use by its players. In this blog post, we’re strapping on our helmets to take a wild ride through the NFL’s policy changes when it comes to weed. We’ll dive into why they’re making these shifts, look at what some players think, and even speculate on how it might affect everyone involved, from athletes to the whole league.

Photo: Unsplash

The NFL’s Historical Stance on Cannabis

Back in the day, the NFL had some pretty strict rules about cannabis. They classified it as a controlled substance under federal law, and players who got caught faced consequences. Positive tests for marijuana meant suspensions, and they didn’t give players much leeway. To make matters more challenging, the league kept testing its players every four months. The threshold for a positive test was set at just 35 ng/mL of THC metabolite. It was like walking on thin ice.

The NFL has had its fair share of rules on marijuana, and they’ve played hardball with players. Take All-Pro running back Ricky Williams as an example – he found himself benched for entire seasons thanks to multiple suspensions. It’s akin to sidelining your star player in an important game.

Policy Changes Over the Years

But hold on to your helmets because 2020 brought a wild twist to the playbook! The NFL shook things up, doing a victory dance with a brand-new collective bargaining agreement alongside the NFL Players Association. It was like a touchdown celebration – but with contracts instead of end zone dances. Now, let’s check out the game-changing moves they made:

Reduced Testing Frequency

Reducing the testing time frame to two weeks in 2020 was a game-changer for NFL players. Before, the league tested aggressively, even more than the Olympics. They scrutinized players up to 350 times a week during the season, adding a layer of complexity to the whole testing process. 

Higher THC Threshold

Speaking of a game-changer, they upped the ante on the THC threshold. It’s not just a small step; they moved the goalposts from a mere 35 ng/mL to a whopping 150 ng/mL of THC metabolite. That’s like pushing the end zone a whole lot further down the field.

A Surprising Consensus Among Players

It’s not just the NFL changing the game; players themselves are coming out of the cannabis closet. Running back Le’Veon Bell spilled the beans, admitting he used to light up before NFL games. But he’s not the only one high on honesty in the league. Former tight end Martellus Bennett dropped the bomb, estimating that a whopping “89 percent” of NFL players smokes weed. And not to be outdone, former running back Ricky Williams chimed in, claiming “at least 80 percent” of players joined the cannabis club. These numbers are higher than a Hail Mary pass!

And it’s not just about using it; some retired players like Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Tiki Barber, and Calvin Johnson have put their money where their mouth is by investing in cannabis companies. Touchdown for business ventures!

Scientific Touchdown: What the Studies Say

But hey, apart from what players are saying – science is joining the huddle too! Recent studies have taken a closer look at how marijuana might play into the game, especially concerning head impacts. One study even suggests that chronic cannabis use might enhance oculomotor functional resiliency and suppress neuroinflammatory responses following activities like soccer heading. They also found that neuroinflammatory markers like serum S100B levels reflected cannabis’s anti-inflammatory effects. What an amazing plant!

Potential Impact on Players and the NFL

The potential impact of policy changes and the rise in marijuana use among NFL players sparks a lively debate. While some hail it as a potential game-changer for player well-being, there are hurdles and unknowns to tackle. Picture the NFL wading through a maze of state laws, league rules, and owner opinions – it’s a complex journey. The league might not be ready to fully embrace medical marijuana, but the game is afoot, and the debate remains center stage. Let the gridiron discussions continue – this match is far from the final whistle!

Huddle Up for the Marijuana Debate’s Final Play

The NFL’s approach to marijuana use has come a long way, driven by player advocacy and concerns over player health, especially amid the concussion crisis. While they’ve made some moves, the end zone for medical marijuana in the league is still uncertain. As the NFL keeps working through this challenging issue, the conversation about marijuana in football is far from over. It’s like an overtime game that could go either way.


About Jeremy

Jeremy graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology from the Technical University of Kenya. Over the past four years, he's been passionate about writing on a wide range of cannabis-related topics. In addition to guides, he's explored various aspects of cannabis, including its medical benefits, legalization efforts, cultivation techniques, and its impact on society. You can reach him at [email protected].