Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that the National Football League should scrap its ban on marijuana. But even if the NFL did drop pot prohibition, Jones' own players wouldn't be legally allowed to have a puff unless Texas got onside with cannabis legalization.
Jones allegedly spoke out against the NFL's cannabis ban last week in Phoenix, Arizona during a closed-door, executives-only meeting where attendees were encouraged to bring up whatever issues mattered to them. Jones used that opportunity to raise his concerns about the league's cannabis policy, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports.
"Jones...raised the question of the NFL’s position on marijuana," Florio wrote. "Jones, per a source who heard the comments, wants the league to drop its prohibition on marijuana use. Jones was reminded that the issue falls 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."
That assessment echoes the sentiments of former NFL player and current cannabis advocate Ricky Williams. In August 2016, Williams told Bill Simmons that the league would want something from the players before agreeing to lift the ban on cannabis.
"I think a lot of the time the NFL gets the blame [for the ban]," Williams said. "But it's something that's negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I think what it comes down to is the players say we'd rather have more money. And I think the owners use the drug policy as leverage for us to give up other things."
So getting the right to use cannabis will likely cost the players something in return. But they have a few years to think that over before deciding if the trade is worth it. Since the players and the owners won't renegotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreement until the current one expires after the 2020 season, pot prohibition will likely remain law in the NFL until 2021 at the earliest.
It's not surprising that Jones would want to lift the marijuana ban given the benefits that cannabis could offer players as an alternative medicine. Retired NFLers like Ricky Williams as well as Jim McMahon and Eugene Monroe have dedicated their post-football careers to advocating medical marijuana as a safer and more effective treatment for sports injuries than the prescription painkillers that players currently use.
Ironically, those opioid painkillers are not only less effective but also highly addictive and potentially lethal. In contrast, no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, but any NFL player caught using it will face a suspension from the league according to the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"The NFL, in other words, is pumping its players full of highly addictive and deadly substances that are of dubious use for treating the long-term, chronic pain suffered by so many players - and fining and suspending players who choose instead to self-medicate with a less-addictive and nonlethal substance," Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post noted.
So lifting the ban could save the lives of players - some players, at least. Ironically, Jones' Cowboys would still be legally barred from using cannabis even if the NFL lifts its ban in the near future. Right now, Texas is one of the 21 states in America that bans medical as well as recreational marijuana use. So unless the cannabis legalization movement makes a major breakthrough in the next three years, teams like the Cowboys - as well as the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and other teams - won't be able to legally use marijuana even if the league allows it.
Then again, lifting the ban could prompt the federal government to finally take action on cannabis reform. After all, if the NFL - a mainstream American industry worth $74.8 billion - says that marijuana is okay, federal lawmakers will have to take the issue more seriously.
Banner image: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (Shutterstock.com)