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Major League Baseball removes marijuana from the list of banned substances

Chris Simms discusses how Ricky Williams' NFL career could have been different if the league had different policies around marijuana.

NFL, you’re up.

Major League Baseball has removed marijuana from the list of Drugs of Abuse under its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The change occurred as a result of negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Baseball will continue to test for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, and synthetic THC.

Major League Baseball will now treat “marijuana-related conduct” in the same way that it treats “alcohol-related conduct,” which presumably includes the penalties for driving a vehicle while under the influence.

This development will increase public pressure on the NFL to follow suit, but the NFL has shown no inclination to unilaterally remove marijuana from the substance-abuse policy. The league has pointed out, on numerous occasions, that it’s a subject of collective bargaining. Which means that, if the NFL Players Association wants marijuana to be removed from the substance-abuse policy, the NFLPA needs to make a concession.

And the NFLPA won’t. Because the NFLPA realizes that it’s currently very easy to navigate the annual testing program under the substance-abuse policy. Only a small percentage of players end up being fined or suspended for marijuana use. A much larger percentage of players surely smoke all season long, knowing that if they simply stop by the middle of March (given that it takes roughly a month to clear the metabolites from the system) and refrain until the give their annual sample for testing (the testing window opens, coincidentally, on 4/20), they will have no problems.

Problems can still arise if players are arrested for marijuana possession in a state where it’s illegal, or if a player is charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. Still, players who are smart and prudent can smoke for up to 11 months of the year, without incident.

For the NFLPA, the question becomes what it is worth to essentially gain the ability to smoke marijuana for an extra month? At this point, not nearly enough to get the NFL to agree to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances.