The NFL and NFL Players Association announced Wednesday that they modified their drug policies and, among other changes, have added synthetic cannabinoids, a.k.a. synthetic marijuana, to the list of banned substances.
Also known as “Spice,” “K2” and “Blaze,” synthetic marijuana has been added to the standard testing panel for substances of abuse, and players are banned from having more than 2.5 nanograms of synthetic cannabinoids per milliliter of urine.
Related: Synthetic cannabinoids are not “synthetic marijuana.” What you need to know about Spice, K2 and others
A growing contingent of former and current players have advocated for the allowance of natural cannabis — both whole-plant cannabis and the non-psychoactive compound, cannabidiol — for pain management and for treating the symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
Marijuana is still federally illegal as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it’s deemed to have no medical value and is highly addictive. But more than half the states have legalized cannabis for either recreational or medical (or both) use.
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Synthetic cannabinoids — named because they act on the same brain cell receptors as natural cannabis’ primary psychoactive compound, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — are created by spraying chemicals on dried plants and are found to be much more potent than their natural counterparts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cannabinoids can have more powerful effects on the brain, and can even lead to death.
Among the other notable changes to the drug policies, the league and union now require that all specimens for testing of substances of abuse in the offseason are produced within four hours after players are notified. The procedures for specimen collection and for international travel for players in the intervention program have also been altered.
The league and union also modified their policy on performance-enhancing drugs to include growth hormone secretagogues and growth hormone-releasing hormones and peptides. Growth hormone-releasing peptides are a class of growth hormone secretagogues that increase the amount of growth hormone released in the body. Growth hormone was already on the list of banned drugs, and is tested via blood analysis.