As cannabis laws continue to soften throughout North America, major sports leagues are updating their policies to better reflect our society’s changing attitudes on marijuana.
Leading the pack in updating such policies is the MLB, which removed marijuana from its list of banned substances in late 2019 and now categorizes marijuana use similarly to alcohol.
Following the MLB’s policy change is the NFL. The league introduced a new agreement that will dramatically reduce the punishment for marijuana use and eliminate suspensions for positive tests. Under the new policy, players who test positive will be evaluated and put on a treatment plan if deemed necessary.
The NHL and NBA Still Consider Cannabis a Problem
While the MLB and NFL are taking some positive steps toward embracing the benefits many professional athletes find in marijuana use, the NHL and the NBA both continue to treat marijuana as a banned substance.
In the NHL, players are tested for marijuana use, but they are not punished for positive tests. Instead, the NHL views instances when players demonstrate high levels of THC as a health care issue, and provide them with compassionate treatment options.
The league harshest on marijuana is the NBA, where players are subject to four random drug tests during the regular season. A first positive test results in a player being sent to a drug program, with a second positive test resulting in the punishment of a $25,000 fine. Should a third violation occur, a player is suspended for five games, with any further violations resulting in a suspension of an additional five games for every violation thereafter.
The NHL’s empathetic marijuana stance and the recent and impending policy changes in the MLB and NFL are positive for athletes. In relaxing league policies on marijuana use, players will no longer be forced to hide the fact that they are using the natural substance. Studies have shown that cannabis and CBD products have a positive effect in elevating the many physical aches and pains that come along with being a professional athlete. In addition, many major league players have recently begun to open up about the significant stress relief they experience by using these products.
The NBA’s current policy on marijuana, however, is not reflective of the times we are living in, nor has it been built in the best interest of its players.
Today, the NBA’s marijuana policy remains rooted in David Stern’s 2000 decision to begin testing for marijuana; the beginning of what many consider to be a racist and heavy-handed effort to “clean up” the league, which largely punished players for simply being who they are.
As Cannabis Usage Evolves so will Professional Sports Leagues’ Stances
If major sports leagues continue to evolve their attitudes toward marijuana use, a safe environment will be created for players to address the reasons why they might be using marijuana. In doing so, teams and players can work together in determining the best treatment options for the various physical and mental ailments they might be facing, whether that treatment is marijuana, meditation, or some other form of medication or therapy.
With two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NBA, a quarantined Toronto Raptors team, and the entire season in jeopardy, I hope my NBA brotherhood takes this unexpected downtime in a very busy and often stressful 82-game schedule to rest their bodies, relax their minds, and maybe even enjoy the many positive benefits of a little marijuana while doing so.