The National Football Association and its Players Union have approved a new collective bargaining agreement that includes reduced penalties for positive cannabis tests, the Sporting News reports. Under the agreement players will no longer be suspended for positive tests and the threshold for failing a test is now 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, up from 35 nanograms.
Under the new rules, if a player tests positive for cannabis during the two-week training camp their test is reviewed by a board of medical professionals appointed by the NFLPA and the league who determine whether the player needs treatment for drug abuse. That two-week window for cannabis testing was shortened from four months, which means that fewer players will be tested for cannabis.
Under the league's old rules, 10 players per team were randomly selected to be tested each week during the regular season and a first positive test meant a referral to the substance abuse program. A second violation led to a two-game check fine, while a third violation was for four game checks. A fourth violation resulted in a four-game suspension, a fifth violation was a 10-game suspension, and a sixth violation led to a one-year suspension.
Previously, the NFL had the strictest cannabis-related rules in professional American sports and with the rule changes, just the National Basketball Association has a drug policy among the four major sports leagues in the U.S. that includes suspensions for cannabis use.
Last year the NFL and NFLPA announced the creation of a Joint Pain Management Committee that reportedly would include cannabis and cannabinoids as part of its research into pain management and alternative therapies. Nine of the leagues 32 teams play their home games in states that have legalized cannabis for adult use.
The National Football League will put a stop to suspending players for testing positive on marijuana tests as one of the major points on the league's recent Collective Bargaining Agreement. For one, there will be more relaxed rules on drug testing as the window for such tests will be narrowed from four months to two weeks at the beginning of training camp. This should put a decrease in the number of players subject to testing.
Other major points include the level of THC being increased in terms of what qualifies as a positive result. This is from 35 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 150. Essentially, this decreases penalties and does away with suspensions for anyone who tests positive. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement also states that "a neutral decision-maker" will be the one to officially make the disciplinary decisions that decrease commissioner Roger Goodell's disciplinary power.
Other important points in the CBA that will take effect include a 17-game regular season, shortened preseason, a new revenue share, increased roster size, and new playoff format. The new playoffs will move up from six teams per conference to seven, only top seeds in each conference get a bye week.
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