NFL Limits On Marijuana Still Strict, But Not Really

Tug McGraw was once asked which he preferred, Astroturf or grass. “I don’t know,” he said. “I never smoked Astroturf.”

That was 1974, when artificial turf was relatively new and he was more famous as a relief pitcher than as Tim McGraw’s father. Forty years later, professional athletes don’t crack many marijuana jokes in public anymore.

Much of the country is more accepting of cannabis — it is legal for recreational use in two states and for medical use in 23 states plus the District of Columbia — but marijuana remains a banned substance in the NFL, although the league slightly relaxed testing standards in its revised Policy and Program on Substances for Abuse.

NFL Seeks Right Answer For Medical Marijuana Use

Marijuana is casting an ever-thickening haze across NFL locker rooms, and it’s not simply because more players are using it.

As attitudes toward the drug soften, and science slowly teases out marijuana’s possible benefits for concussions and other injuries, the NFL is reaching a critical point in navigating its tenuous relationship with what is recognized as the analgesic of choice for many of its players.

“It’s not, let’s go smoke a joint,” retired NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington said. “It’s, what if you could take something that helps you heal faster from a concussion, that prevents your equilibrium from being off for two weeks and your eyesight for being off for four weeks?”

One challenge the NFL faces is how to bring marijuana into the game as a pain reliever without condoning its use as a recreational drug. And facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of former players complaining about the effects of prescription painkillers they say were pushed on them by team trainers and doctors, the NFL is looking for other ways to help players deal with the pain from a violent game.