NFL player poll: Pot not as dangerous

Updated: August 27, 2014, 12:58 PM ET
By Rob Demovsky | ESPN.com

When President Barack Obama said earlier this year that he does not think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, his words resonated with NFL players.

At this point, however, that does not matter to those who enforce the NFL's substance abuse policy.

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Illustration by Todd Detwiler

As part of a survey of 100-plus players conducted by ESPN.com's NFL Nation, 75 percent of the 82 players who answered said they agree with Obama's statement, which he made during an interview in January with The New Yorker.

Nevertheless, the commander in chief does not set or enforce NFL policy.

The NFL's substance abuse policy calls for players who test positive for marijuana to enter the league's drug program. Repeat offenders go to Stage 2 of the program, where another positive test results in a four-game suspension. Punishments for repeated offenses after that become more severe, according to the NFL's long and complex policy, which is 32 pages.

Any change would have to be agreed upon by both the NFL Players Association and the league, and league spokesman Greg Aiello would not say whether there are any ongoing discussions about a possible change to how marijuana fits into the policy.

"The policy is part of the [collective bargaining agreement]; it is collectively bargained," Aiello said. "We and the union are guided by the recommendations of our media advisers to the program."

ESPN reported earlier this year that a renegotiation of the league's drug policy will significantly increase the threshold for a positive marijuana test and reduce the severity of punishes for those positive tests.

This offseason, the league had a high-profile marijuana case involving star Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who faces a season-long ban for a second positive test.

The NFL's discipline policy as a whole has come under fire this year after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received only a two-game suspension after being arrested for domestic violence.

In siding with Obama on the marijuana issue, the NFL players surveyed are essentially saying they believe the punishment does not fit the crime. That's perhaps even more understandable in places such as Denver and Seattle, as the two teams that played in the last Super Bowl are located in states where recreational marijuana is legal in certain amounts.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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