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NFLPA hoping for “less punitive” approach to recreational marijuana

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Stanford v Oklahoma State

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: A member of the Stanford Cardinal marching band performs against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

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When it comes to marijuana, the NFL continues to be trapped in the days of Reefer Madness. The NFL Players Association hopes to change that.

In a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the union is preparing a proposal to make the substance-abuse policy “less punitive” when it comes to recreational marijuana use. If approved by the NFLPA’s board of player representatives, the proposal will be presented to the NFL.

“We will sit down and we will present a proposal to our board,” Smith said. “If our board approves the proposal, we’ll sit down with the league and we will make the proposal to them. If we think that this is medically, scientifically and therapeutically the right position, then we tell the league, ‘Therapeutically, medically and scientifically, this is the right position.’”

It all seems reasonable, fair, and appropriate, but the threshold problem is this: If the union wants to change the policy, the union needs to be ready to make a concession. That’s how collective bargaining works; it’s a quid pro quo, a tit-for-tat. Mutual backscratching.

So if the NFLPA wants to soften the policy, the NFLPA needs to be ready to give the NFL something it wants.

Also factoring into any looming negotiations between the league and the union on this point will be the future of recreational and medicinal marijuana use, after Jeff Sessions becomes the Attorney General. He has spoken out against legalized marijuana in the past, and he could choose to enforce the federal ban on marijuana use in the various states that have legalized it. If that happens, it would be much harder to justify a softening of the league’s attitude toward a substance that is both banned and once again illegal from coast to coast.