Perhaps the most influential owner in the National Football League – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones – told fellow owners this month that the NFL drop its prohibition against players using marijuana.
The report came from Mike Florio, a NBC Sports reporter who said he had information from someone with “direct knowledge” of an owners-only meeting held last week in Arizona.
Jones “raised the question of the NFL’s position on marijuana. Jones, per a source who heard the comments, wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use.”
The other owners reminded Jones that such a move would have to come in “under the umbrella of collective bargaining, which would require the players to make one or more concessions in exchange for significant changes to the marijuana prohibition.”
Jerry Jones Wants a Big Change
Such a change would mark a dramatic shift in policy not just for the NFL, but professional sports. All the major sports leagues continue to prohibit the use of marijuana by players, even in states where marijuana is legal.
The level of enforcement varies by league. For example, players have come forward from the NBA saying that marijuana has been a part of the culture of the league for decades, particularly in dealing with pain.
NFL players also have spoken about the issue. And Pittsburgh Steelers legendary former running back Franco Harris has partnered with a company in Pennsylvania that wants to research the use of marijuana for pain management.
Part of what might be driving Jones’ decision to speak with owners on the issue is the fact he has seen Cowboys players lose playing time for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has openly mocked the idea that cannabis could replace opioids for treating pain, many others have said it provides relief from pain without the addictive nature of opioids.
In an opinion piece on the issue, Eric Boehm, writing for Reason magazine, supported Jones’ reported position. He noted that the NFL is “awash in opioids” but maintains the prohibition against the use of marijuana.
“Sports are a mirror for the culture that watches them, and the NFL’s contradictory positions on those two types of pain treatments certainly reflects both the rising opioid crisis in America and the ongoing effort to come to terms with the tragic and awful consequences of a decades-long war on drugs,” he wrote.
He went on to say the NFL’s anti-marijuana policy “doesn’t make much sense” given the number of states that have made cannabis legal for medical and recreational use.
For its part, the NFL has maintained that any changes to the marijuana policy must come through labor negotiations, and the league is open to evidence from the medical community about the benefits of marijuana.