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NFL Reportedly to Renegotiate Drug Policy, Reduce Marijuana Punishments
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Updates from Thursday, May 15

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is disputing the report that the NFL is looking to reduce marijuana punishments under a new drug policy:

Per a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, the report is inaccurate.

The source explained that increased marijuana concentrations and/or decreased marijuana discipline have never been formally proposed by either side.  The possibility was mentioned only once during the discussions, and it is not part of the tentative agreement that hinges on the league and the union finalizing HGH testing.

“It’s not in there,” the source said regarding the information relating to changes to the marijuana rules.

That said, the current proposal does include the ability of the medical experts who run the substance-abuse program to adjust the time period that a player spends in the program.  Rather than relying on a specific duration (such as two years or, for a player in Stage 3, the rest of his career), the player could be removed from the program if/when a clinical determination is made that the oversight no longer is needed.

Original Text

Marijuana has been a hot topic in both college football and the NFL recently, and the NFL is reportedly set to address the issue by renegotiating the current drug policy.     

The new rules will reportedly reduce the punishments handed out for marijuana use, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com:

When and if the NFL's new drug policy is finalized and announced, it will include changes specific to marijuana and other drugs of abuse.

A source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the renegotiation of the drug policy, which has been going on since 2011 and includes testing for HGH, also will significantly increase the threshold for a positive marijuana test and reduce the punishments for violations involving that drug.

The source said the NFL's policy on marijuana is outdated, pointing out that WADA has a higher threshold for a positive test than the NFL currently does, and in need of updating.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com also broke down the news on Twitter:

Unfortunately for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, the new policy wouldn't reduce the pending penalty for his latest positive test. The star wideout is facing a possible season-long suspension after testing positive for the drug, which marked another failed drug test during his NFL career.

With some states now legalizing the substance for medicinal use, the NFLPA suggested the league study the banned substance. The union also requested that all discipline appeals be addressed by an independent arbitrator, not commissioner Roger Goodell, per Graziano.

Eric Winston, the NFLPA president, was recently critical of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for another type of testing. Earlier this month, Winston spoke about his approach on HGH testing, per Jane McManus of ESPN.com:

It's there when [Goodell] wants to sign it. I kind of laugh because it keeps coming up. If he wants HGH testing as bad as he wants to retain his power, then we would have had HGH testing last year. At the end of the day, that's what this is all about: He wants to hold all the cards and he wants to be the judge, jury and executioner, and we're not going to go for an un-American system like that. [...]

[Testing is] not something the players don't want, and when you get into taking blood, there needs to be a neutral arbitrator to deal with all those issues.

Needless to say, there might be more testing coming from the NFL.

This report also comes on the heels of a move by the NCAA less than a month ago, which decided the drug was no longer a performance-enhancing substance. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported the rule change:

As for Gordon's case, Cleveland Browns fans will still have to see their best receiver face the full punishment from the NFL. The changes aren't concrete at this point, so there is no telling when the system will officially be in place.

There's a potential for Gordon to appeal the decision and possibly lobby that he get the discipline from the pending rule change. But with Gordon's positive test taking place before the ruling, it's not likely he will receive the same judgement.

 

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