Weed in the NFL (Can Players Smoke Weed?)

Weed, also referred to as marijuana or cannabis, has become a hot topic in the world of sports and medicine. For years, athletes have used weed as a form of pain medication. The substance has been looked down on in the worldwide eye. However recently, has become legal in the majority of North America. This legalization has changed the narrative to weed can be used safely and for a good cause. Athletes put their bodies under immense stress and using a natural substance as a remedy is a lot safer than prescribed pills. NFL players are widely known as being advocates for the use of weed. The question is, can NFL players smoke weed?

Yes, NFL players can smoke weed. Under the league’s new CBA, players will not be tested for Delta 9 THC-carboxylic acid from April 20th to August 9th. This is the prominent chemical found in weed. Players will be tested for THC once training camps open in August.

In this article, we will dive into specific details surrounding weed within the NFL. We will cover why weed is legal, which substances are banned in the NFL, changes to the CBA surrounding the drug, and popular players that are outspoken about using marijuana.


Is Weed Legal In The NFL? (How Does It Work & Why?)

Weed, or marijuana, is in fact now legal for players to use in the NFL. The substance used to be looked down on with judgment. This is especially true when it comes to professional athletes, who are held on a pedestal. Its well documented that NFL players have been vocal about marijuana use. Many have voiced their opinions on its medical upsides, mostly for pain and dealing with injuries. It took a long time, but the league finally listened to the players and opposing leagues that were ahead of this. Under the newly passed CBA as of March 2021, weed is now available to NFL athletes. How the new CBA works:

  • Players will be tested for THC once training camps open in August
  • Raised allowance for a positive marijuana test from 35 nanograms to 150
  • Eliminates initial suspensions for positive drug tests
  • Fines issued for up to three weeks of pay instead

The NFL will be veering away from severe discipline for marijuana use. Instead, focusing on an approach surrounding recovery and treatment. If a player tests positive during training camp, his test is reviewed by a board of medical professionals. These board members are appointed by both the players and the league. The board will then decide if the player needs further treatment.

Reasons for why the NFL changed its policies come mainly from the new public perspective on marijuana. The overall public support for weed has grown dramatically in recent years. Several states have moved to end all restrictions for the use of marijuana. Roughly 68% of American states have moved to vote for full legalization, as of November 2020.

What Was The Old CBA Rules On Weed In The NFL?

The previous drug CBA against weed was very harsh, with very little allowance on its players. Every player was tested at least once during the offseason, and once during the season. Also, 10 players from each team were selected for tests each week during the regular season.

One positive test previously resulted in a referral to the substance abuse program. A second positive test resulted in a fine worth two games of that player’s salary. A third violation was a fine worth four games of that player’s salary. The fourth violation was a four-game suspension. A fifth violation was a 10-game suspension. Finally, a sixth violation resulted in a one-year ban. 

What substances are banned in the NFL?

As you would expect, all government illegal drugs are banned in the NFL. The most notable banned substances are anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. There has been a long history of steroids in the NFL, dating back to the late 1960s. The league began issuing drug tests for steroids in 1987, with the league handing out suspensions in the 1989 season. The typical testing process is every player is tested randomly once during the season.

The most notable and original case of steroids being a major factor on a players health, is from the name Lyle Alzado. Alzado in 1992, died of brain cancer after a long resume of using anabolic steroids. Cases like Lyle’s show that steroids are a harmful and addictive substance. There’s a reason its monitored and tested so strictly.

The main side effects of using anabolic steroids for a long period of time vary, but are usually very similar. Those side effects typically include:

  • High Blood Pressure/High Cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Severe Acne
  • Loss of Hair
  • Cardiac Arrests/Heart Attacks
  • Liver Damage

Can A Player Refuse Treatment From The League?

A positive test during the season or training camp will subject the player to the league-mandated substance abuse program. If the player refuses the program then they are hit with their fourth violation, resulting in the league handing out a suspension of three games. If the violations continue without accepting the mandated program, further discipline will be evaluated and issued.

This makes sense by the NFL. Yes, you want to allow for looser restrictions to your players regarding weed. It’s a step that is needed to follow the current trajectory of the conversation around the world, but most importantly professional sports. However, without this mandated program following a positive test, you are giving all of your player’s free reign to do whatever they want with the substance. You don’t want your big-name athlete’s performance, or the quality of league games to drop off because the restrictions were loosened too heavily. This is a good happy medium for both sides.

Former NFL Players Known For Smoking Weed

If you asked every player with a lie detector test, I am sure you would get a lot of them admitting they smoke weed. In terms of players being outspoken publicly, that is very uncommon. With the looser restrictions on marijuana, you will start to see more players advocating for the drug publicly. Notable players who have spoken out are:

  • Rob Gronkowski – Partnered with CBD manufacturer CBDMEDIC
  • Marshawn Lynch – Partnered with Dodi, manufacturing THC diamond-infused blunts
  • Joe Montana – His venture firm donated $75 million to a California based marijuana company
  • Brett Favre – Brand Ambassador for Green eagle, a CBC brand that makes creams, roll-ons, sprays, liquid capsules and salve sticks.
  • Calvin Johnson – Partnered with Harvard University to work on a project to determine the health benefits of medical marijuana. Johnson stated he smoked weed after every game to help with his concussions.
  • Percy Harvin – Publicly spoke that he was high for every game he plated. Harvin suffered with extreme anxiety disorder.

To summarize, weed is becoming a very popular discussion around the world of sports. Players are learning about the positives it can have on their physical bodies, as well as the mental positives. In the next few years, I would not be surprised if weed was a regular medication in the world of sports. Helping players deal with physical injuries, as well as medical mental disorders.

I hope you enjoyed this article and learned a thing or two. If you did, be sure to check out another NFL-related article on the website. If not, maybe one of the other articles will be more up your alley.