NFLPA preparing proposal for 'less punitive' approach to marijuana use

The NFL Players Association is attempting to change the way the league handles marijuana use. The union is preparing a proposal to make the substance abuse policy "less punitive" with regards to players using marijuana, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Washington Post.

"I do think that issues of addressing it more in a treatment and less punitive measure is appropriate," Smith said. "I think it's important to look at whether there are addiction issues. And I think it's important to not simply assume recreation is the reason it's being used."

This is a big step towards the NFL softening punishments for violating the league's drug policy, but it's far from a sure thing. The proposal will be presented to the NFLPA's board of directors first, and if approved at that level, it will be taken to the league and presented there.

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Players aren't currently permitted to use marijuana either in a recreational sense or for pain management, which is part of the reason Smith and the union are going forward with this proposal. He wants to address the possibility that players are simply using it to combat depression or pain.

"We have to do a better job of knowing if our players are suffering from other potentially dangerous psychological issues like depression, right? So if I look at this myopically as just a recreational use of marijuana and miss the fact that we might have players suffering from depression, what have I fixed? Worse yet, you may have solved an issue that gets the steady drumbeat in a newspaper but miss an issue like chronic depression ... where a person theoretically might be able to smoke more weed because it makes them feel better but it's not curing their depression."

As it stands right now, players face fines and suspensions as discipline for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Even if a team plays in a state where marijuana use is legal, the players cannot use it.