Is the NFL the next major sports league to remove cannabis from their banned substances list? Let’s see if the dominos are falling in the right direction!

By: Chloe Persichetti

Finally, hemp is becoming a real target of conversation in major league sports. Since the federal legalization of CBD, hemp has been slowly reaching levels of awareness unseen until now. Will more boundaries be broken by the plant? It seems there’s something big in the works. 


MLB’s Cannabis Plans 

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Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) are among the first in American sports to remove THC and CBD from their banned substances list… will the NFL be next? The legalization of hemp production due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill has sparked change everywhere; and after all, the NFL does say they “inspire change.” Could this be one of the changes they are referring to? It would make sense to stay current with what is going on in the world — especially with states one after the other allowing CBD to be sold in corner stores and large corporations alike. Even Carl’s Jr. is coming out with a limited-time burger with CBD sauce. What are the owners and affiliates afraid of?

For insight, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) already allow their players to use CBD and be sponsored by such brands. However, to be clear, no players are allowed to use THC, unlike in baseball. In the MiLB and MLB, the use of cannabis is a recent unfolding. Yet, former baseball players such as Rich “Goose” Gossage and Jason Bay have heavily advocated for CBD in their post-baseball lives. Their efforts have not gone unheard, as athletes’ interests in CBD have continued to grow through the years. 

2020 spring training is when the ban is said to lift and players will be able to enjoy the plant. The organization hopes that players will choose cannabis over opioids, which has plagued the sport with addiction issues and tragedy for a long time now. 

Earlier this January, the MLB announced action will be taken for players who test positive for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine or synthetic THC. Those confirmed will have the option to work with the league on a treatment plan or face suspension. The league has also gone forward to say all members and team personnel will be attending mandatory opioid management meetings to fully understand the dangers that opioids bring and spread awareness. While this ruling is new, are other organizations such as the NFL looking into CBD? 

The answer is yes


Current NFL And Cannabis News

Countless athletic organizations are looking into cannabis, in part because of the loud outcry from players who want to see cannabis off the banned substances list. Cannabis is becoming increasingly legal in states across the U.S. and players want to be able to use it as well. As of now in the NFL, cannabis is in the same category as extremely destructive substances, and some players believe cannabis should not be met with those same, harsh standards. 

There are many past NFL players who want to see a change in how the NFL views hemp. Names such as Rob Gronkowski and Rick Upchurch are amongst the many who believe and advocate for a change. Furthermore, there have been many cannabis-related suspensions that have forced players’ careers to close early such as Josh Gordon from the Seattle Seahawks. The NFL takes these offenses seriously. 

Kareem Hunt was issued a speeding ticket on Jan. 21st. Police found marijuana while searching his vehicle. The league is aware, but who knows what will happen. Could this be another cannabis-related suspension? Or could the MLB’s stance on drug treatment plans be a blueprint for a new, progressive response? Fans are becoming steadily more upset as well that talented players are being penalized and forced off the gridiron due to a natural compound that is heading toward full legalization in America.

CBD for Athletes


The Final NFL Decision for 2020-2021 Season

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What is the NFL’s stance? Initial news is positive because the NFL is in favor of keeping open communication with CBD companies. The league is making efforts and intently learning about ways to incorporate CBD. Committees are staying on top of research within the cannabis field, and one day, introducing CBD to football may become a possibility. 

Earlier this month, members of the Pain Management Committee of the NFL and the NFL Players Association gathered to ask questions in an attempt to better understand the increasingly popular cannabinoid that is CBD. Manufacturers of CBD were there to answer questions the committee members posed, as well as give insight into the new world of legal cannabis. The committee is comprised of multiple positions, many being medical doctors. 

NFL committees are not going to give in easily, however. The answers received from CBD experts were insightful but did not seem to be what they wanted to hear. As of now, NFL teams across the country received statements of the committee’s stance, saying, “CBD is a promising compound but the extent of its use in the United States outpaces the level of evidence.” 

It may sound definitive but in actuality, this is momentum beginning to pick up on the topic. This blueprint baseball is laying out may be picked up by other sports in the meantime, and the NFL may follow suit if all goes well. The NFL Policy for Substances of Abuse remains rigid, but meeting with CBD manufacturers is a noteworthy step. 


In conclusion, they’re likely just playing it safe, which doesn’t mean things won’t change as time goes on. It seems as though the NFL is waiting on a slightly larger pool of studies before making a definitive decision. If you are in favor of cannabis, or even only CBD, being tolerated within the NFL, let’s hope a prestigious study comes out soon. 

Until then, the NFL will stick to their script, but at least we know they’re browsing to see what else is out there and keeping their options open. Perhaps the NFL will be watching closely as the MLB lifts the cannabis ban to see how the 2020 and 2021 seasons go. With change occurring politically, as well as within major sports organizations, it seems to be only a matter of time before major studies are completed and the NFL embraces a future with CBD.