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NFL Players Union Gives Friendly Warning to Players about Upcoming Drug Tests

03/20/2015 02:37 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015
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The union representing NFL players, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), put out an alert yesterday letting players know they have a little more than 30 days left before they can be randomly tested for banned substances.

Marijuana can stay in someone's system for up to 30 days, so it's really aimed at players who use marijuana. If they stop using marijuana now they should be ok if they get tested (beginning on 4/20, coincidentally). While it's great to see the NFLPA looking out for the players, the NFL needs to do a better job looking out for player safety.

The NFL needs to get with the times and reconsider their marijuana policy.

Currently, 35 states have laws allowing access to some form of medical marijuana, and four states plus the District of Columbia have implemented laws that have legalized marijuana. Amajority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana for adults. But beyond all the public support for reforming marijuana laws, there are many reasons more directly related to the NFL and why current/former players suffer because of the NFL's outdated marijuana policy.

Three Super Bowl champions (Marvin Washington, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita) had it right when they called on the NFL to develop "a more rational and science-based approach to marijuana" earlier this year. They laid out a clear and sensible vision for how the NFL should rethink marijuana:

First and foremost, the NFL should allocate financial resources to advance medical research on the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating brain injuries. In the case of trauma, a lot of inflammation occurs, which affects cognitive functioning and neural connectivity. A compound in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD) has shown scientific potential to be an antioxidant and neuroprotectant for the brain. In a sport where closed head injuries are common, the league should be doing everything it can to help keep their players healthy during and after their careers. If the NFL wants to continue to grow its game, it must investigate potential medical solutions for its industrial disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Even the federal government holds a patent on marijuana for this purpose.

Second, the NFL should abandon its policy of drug testing and punishing players for use of marijuana. The NHL does not include marijuana among its banned substances and, just this month, the NCAA announced that it plans to re-examine its approach to drug testing student-athletes for non-performance enhancing drugs like marijuana because "they do not provide a competitive advantage."

Finally, the NFL should take a leadership role in addressing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement as well as other injustices caused by ineffective prohibitionist policies. Many players enjoy the use of marijuana apart from its medical benefits, just as tens of millions of other Americans do...According to the ACLU, African Americans are far more likely than other Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession even though they are no more likely to use or possess marijuana. This basic injustice should be of particular concern to the NFL given that more than two-thirds of all current players are African American.

It's well-understood that players are using marijuana (and some even prefer it over alcohol and prescription pills), and evidence shows great potential for marijuana to help with concussions, so it's vexing to watch the NFL continue its outdated views on marijuana.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has expressed a willingness to consider letting players use medical marijuana if medical experts deem it a legitimate option.

Well, the science is in and the public is supportive. So while the league refuses to acknowledge so, players and the game itself will continue to suffer.

Derek Rosenfeld is the digital communications coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.