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Evolution of state laws will make it harder for NFL to ban marijuana


TOPSHOT - Picture of a marijuana leaf taken in a greenhouse at the Fotmer Life Sciences company in Nueva Helvecia, 120 Km west of Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 17, 2019. - Uruguay is ready to make its first exportation of medical marijuana after a revolutionary law regularized the cannabis market in 2013. Fotmer Life Sciences, a US company, installed 18 greenhouses -nearly 30,000 m2- in Uruguay for the production of marijuana for medicinal purposes, which will export to Europe, Canada and Australia, being Germany its first destination. (Photo by Pablo PORCIUNCULA BRUNE / AFP) (Photo credit should read PABLO PORCIUNCULA BRUNE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The NFL continues to ban marijuana use, despite dramatic changes in societal attitudes regarding the consumption of cannabis. But the pressure on the league to change its ways continues to mount.

Nevada, the new home in 2020 of the Raiders, has become the first state to prohibit employers from refusing to hire employees based on a failed marijuana test (with obvious exceptions for safety-sensitive jobs). This undoubtedly applies to the Raiders.

Of course, the NFL rarely if ever disqualifies employees based on positive marijuana tests. Instead, a pre-employment positive sets the stage for enhanced testing and, eventually, unpaid suspensions. But the Nevada law carves a path that could support an argument that employers cannot discipline in any way employees who test positive for marijuana. And similar laws could pop up in other states that have legalized marijuana use.

Really, why wouldn’t states that make marijuana use legal not protect employees from adverse employment action based on legal marijuana use? It’s part of the natural evolution of the law, which reflects broader societal trends.

As more and more states have legalized marijuana use, the NFL has taken refuge in the federal government’s ongoing treatment of marijuana as a controlled substance to justify holding firm regarding its position that the substance remains forbidden. That will be hard to do if/when the laws of states in which NFL teams do business begin to prohibit any type of punishment for employees in jobs that don’t impact public safety.