The NFL has proposed dramatically reduced penalties for cannabis use among players in a new collective bargaining agreement approved by all 32 team owners.

The vote took place at a hotel in Manhattan on Thursday and the team owners unanimously decided to replace the existing 10-year labour document that expires in March 2021. The new document was circulated to players on Thursday and quickly leaked on social media.

It is now up for the players to decide whether they want to vote for it. If they back the agreement, several of its proposed measures will be implemented in time for the new season, which begins in September.

It includes significant concessions on marijuana use. A new window for cannabis testing would be narrowed to just two weeks in July, just before the start of training camps.

Right now the testing period begins on April 20 – cue 4/20 jokes – and runs through to early August. Tests are random, meaning players must stay clean of cannabis for the vast majority of the offseason.

The new proposed rules would allow players to use cannabis to treat aches and pains for the majority of the year. It falls short of completely lifting the ban, but suggests a significantly reduced effort to hunt down cannabis users.

Under the terms of the new CBA, players would no longer face possible suspensions for testing positive. The threshold for positive tests would also be increased from 35 nanograms to 150.

The NFL therefore plans to reduce efforts to identify cannabis users and then be a lot more lenient on anyone that fails a test.

It mirrors a trend for increasingly liberal attitudes to marijuana across the country. Medical marijuana is legal in 31 states, recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states and many more have either decriminalized cannabis use or are in the process of doing so. The federal government is under pressure to follow suit, and all candidates for the Democrat nomination have pledged to do so.

Major League Baseball announced in December that it would remove marijuana from its prohibited substance list for all minor league players, having previously stopped testing players on each team’s 40-man roster. The NHL also has relaxed cannabis policies and NBA policy is evolving in a more liberal direction too.

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