NFL players have voted in favour of a 10-year labour deal that removes the threat of them being suspended for testing positive for marijuana use.
All 32 team owners agreed to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) last month, and it was then circulated to players. They signed it off via a narrow majority vote of 1,069 to 959 over the weekend, so it will now come into force ahead of next season.
It means there will be a 17th regular season game, marking the first major expansion to the NFL season in more than four decades. The playoff format will also be expanded, and there will be more limited training camps.
The new CBA also ushers in a radical overhaul of the league’s approach to marijuana testing. The existing test period runs from April 20 to the end of August, but it will now be narrowed to just two weeks in July.
Under the terms of the new CBA, players will no longer be threatened with suspensions for testing positive. The threshold for positive tests will also be increased from 35 nanograms of carboxy THC per per milliliter of urine to 150 nanograms.
It effectively amounts to the NFL turning a blind eye to marijuana use among players, while stopping short of actually condoning it.
The players will enjoy an increase in the percentage of the overall revenue they take home, which goes from 47% to 48%. The minimum salary increases from $585,000 to $675,000, while the roster size goes up from 53 to 55.
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
It follows a trend that has seen all the key sports leagues in the U.S. to relax their stances on marijuana use among players. The MLB removed marijuana from the prohibited substance list for minor league players in December, after previously removing it for the top pros. Marijuana is legal for medical purposes in more than half of U.S. states and for recreational use in 11 states plus the District of Columbia and Canada.
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