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NFL considering changes to marijuana policy, if drug policy is ever finalized

The NFL is considering a change to its drug policy regarding marijuana. It's part of a negotiation that has been going on for three years now.

Michael Loccisano

The NFL and NFLPA have been negotiating the terms of a new drug policy since the current CBA was signed in 2011, but various hang-ups have blocked the process. When the process is finalized, it apparently will include some notable changes aside from just HGH testing.

ESPN is reporting the agreement would include changes to the current policy regarding marijuana. According to ESPN, the new policy would "significant" increase the threshhold for a positive marijuana test, and it would reduce the punishments for violations involving marijuana. The former change comes as WADA's incredibly strict drug policy has a higher threshhold.

This all comes in the aftermath of the news that Josh Gordon could be facing a season-long suspension for testing positive for marijuana. The reason the punishment is so severe is not because it is marijuana, but because it is not his first failed test. He was previously suspended for two games in 2013 for a failed drug test. Reports indicate it was codeine, and he blamed it on cough syrup he was using for strep throat. According to that article, Gordon also failed three marijuana tests in college.

In Gordon's case, this is not about testing positive for marijuana. It's about failing another drug test, when you know such a failure will result in a lengthy suspension. I think the notion of punishing a player for marijuana is laughable at best. However, when you have already failed multiple drug tests, there is a bigger issue in play. We'll see if Gordon is ever able to figure it out.

As for the potentially changes, I wouldn't exactly get super excited about how soon the changes will happen. This negotiation has been going on since 2011, with multiple issues getting in the way. One of the current problems is the arbitration of discipline.

In cases of non-analytical positives (i.e., an Alex Rodriguez type of case in which a player is found in violation of the drug policy by some method other than a failed test) or in cases of violations of law (i.e., hypothetically, a player got caught trying to smuggle prescription drugs across the Canadian border), the NFLPA has asked that discipline appeals be heard by an independent arbitrator. The NFL has continued to insist that the commissioner have final say over discipline matters.

I can't say I blame the players for holding out on arbitration of discipline. The league is more than happy to keep discipline under the thumb of Roger Goodell. I'm not a fan of the judge, jury and executioner model that provides. We'll see which side blinks first on this.