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Take a Hit: The NFL’s Pot Policy, by the Numbers

The league and its players agree on a new drug policy that loosens restrictions on marijuana

Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Earlier this week, the NFL and its Players Association – who, as you are probably aware, have been at odds over a few things recently – were somehow able to hammer out a new drug policy, one that includes testing for human growth hormone, an increased focus on the league’s substance-abuse program and a liberalized marijuana policy.

The new plan raises the acceptable level of THC found in a player’s urine from 15 nanograms per milliliter (basically the equivalent of standing next to Wiz Khalifa for an hour) to 35, a change that reflects not only the recent trend towards marijuana legalization – 23 states now allow medical or recreational use – and informal surveys of former players that suggest a full 50 percent of the league is toking up.

Given how conservative the NFL tends to be about everything, we’re not sure how the Players Association got them to agree to the new policies (allowing for HGH testing surely helped, as did an elaborate, Cheech & Chong-style prank that involved Roger Goodell and a smoldering fiberweed van). But now that they have, the impact will be sweeping.

Already, players suspended under the old policy – like Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker and Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick – have returned to their teams, and more suspensions have been drastically shortened. Players will also be able to take additional steps under the policy before they are banned, including treatment through a substance-abuse program and third-party arbitration on appeals of positive tests.

Men’s Journal has a by-the-numbers breakdown of the NFL’s rather complicated relationship with drug use, and its new pot policy. Here are some of the startling statistics.

3,000: The estimated number of NFL retirees who take narcotics, based on a study from Washington University School of Medicine, commissioned by ESPN.

1,500: The estimated number of those retirees dependent on pain pills, based on the same study.

750: The number of former NFL players and plaintiffs who signed a lawsuit against NFL teams for dispensing addictive painkillers for their injuries.

115: Difference in ng/mL between the NFL’s new threshold and that of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who set the Olympic drug-testing standard.

104: Number of players who have been suspended for drug-related offenses since 2011 according to commissioner Roger Goodell at a news conference.

91: Percentage of retired NFL players who connected their daily aches and pains to football in a survey by The Washington Post.

20: Number of suspensions in 2014 for other substances including performance enhancing drugs, alcohol, and cocaine.

1: Amount of THC in nanograms per milliliter that Josh Gordon missed in order to test negative (Gordon tested at 16 ng/mL), which led to him receiving a season-long ban. Under the revised drug policy, Gordon’s suspension has been reduced to 10 games.

In This Article: NFL, sports

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