The National Football League has updated its drug policy to include synthetic marijuana as a banned substance. The decision to begin testing for synthetic pot—commonly known as K2 or Spice—was arrived at during an annual drug and steroid policy negotiation between the NFL and the Players Association. Synthetic marijuana joins cocaine, PCP, cannabis, opiates, opioids, MDMA and amphetamines on the NFL’s standard drug testing panel.
Two high profile incidents involving NFL players and synthetic marijuana might have led to the current policy change. Last October, former Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman admitted to smoking “Spice” prior to a hit and run car accident that left the other driver with a broken collar bone. In January, former New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones was briefly hospitalized after a bad reaction to synthetic weed caused him to wander to a police station shirtless and disoriented.
The new testing policy sets the synthetic cannabinoid threshold at 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. As with other substances banned by the NFL, a failed synthetic pot drug test can lead to entry into an intervention program, fines and suspension.
The league did not change its position on cannabis despite pleas from medical professionals and players who believe marijuana could be invaluable as an alternative to addictive pain killers, while its neuro-protective potential could be beneficial for players at risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
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