Under the NFL’s current guidelines, teams are banned from pursuing business deals with medical marijuana or CBD (cannabidoil) companies, whether in the form of sponsorship agreements or advertisements. The league had long maintained similar restrictions on deals with companies associated with gambling or hard liquor, though it has softened its stance in those categories.
A change to the NFL’s policy on marijuana-related deals is “not being contemplated,” spokesman Brian McCarthy told FOX Business.
The NFL’s strict stance on marijuana has drawn widespread scrutiny in recent years as more states have legalized the substance. Players are subject to fines and lengthy suspensions if they test positive for the substance on multiple occasions.
Several players, including former Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, have called on the league to reverse course, arguing that medical marijuana is a safer method of pain management than opioids.
The NFL and its players association jointly announced Monday that they would form two committees to research key medical issues facing players, as well as potential treatments, including marijuana. The announcement sparked speculation that the NFL could be altering its approach on the subject.
The league’s restrictions on pot-related advertisements were tested as recently as January, when its Super Bowl LIII broadcast partner CBS rejected a commercial from medical marijuana brand Acreage Holdings. At the time, Acreage suggested that the NFL may have played a role in CBS’ decision, which the network said was due to internal broadcast guidelines.
McCarthy said the NFL was “not involved” in the commercial’s rejection.
CBD is a hemp derivative that lacks THC, which produces the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use. As demand for CBD grows, several major companies, including Corona beer parent Constellation Brands, Walgreens and the Carl’s Jr. fast food chain, have invested in the industry or begun selling some products.
While several current and former athletes announced partnership with CBD brands in recent months, the industry has largely remained on the fringes of major professional sports. Earlier this month, IndyCar became one of the first major sports entities to allow CBD-related sponsorships.