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The window for annual NFL marijuana testing opens today


The calendar says April 20. That’s 4/20. Which has specific meaning in one specific corner of the culture.

It also has meaning in the NFL. April 20, 4/20, is the first day on which the NFL can implement annual drug tests under the substance-abuse policy.

This has relevance to players not in the substance-abuse program, who are subject to testing at any time. For players not in the program, this is it; one test, implemented at some point between April 20 and early August.

Once that sample is provided (and assuming it’s clean), the player is free to smoke marijuana or use other street drugs, as long as he doesn’t get arrested for a drug-related offense, admit to marijuana use “every blue moon” or more often in a media interview, or have a bag of weed fall out of his jacket in the presence of the Commissioner. (Writing “not weed” on the bag probably won’t work, but it’s worth a try.)

The process allows for players to smoke marijuana, as long as they stop in the middle of March or thereabouts and then refrain from it until after providing the sample. Which makes it very easy to have it both ways, smoking for most of the year and never getting busted.

Which is one of the main reasons why marijuana testing may never disappear from the NFL. The league would want a concession from the NFL Players Association, whose leadership may be willing to give up nothing to wipe off the books a testing program that easily can be circumvented by players who are smart enough to know how to do it.

For most players, the circumvention will be complete as soon as today, April 20. Perhaps in time to properly celebrate 4/20.