Disney World has long been known as the happiest place on earth – and for NBA players making their way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to resume their season this July, that is no exception. What’s even better is that the NBA has decided against marijuana testing at Disney World.
I have been pretty vocal in the past about the need for the NBA to modernize its marijuana policy – and, while this is a small win for my NBA brothers, it’s still a win.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine and buds. In Florida, possession of even small amounts of cannabis is still illegal and punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $1000. Something does tell me, however, that the risk will be worth the reward for these athletes who will be returning to the league under a new type of stress; strict physical distancing rules, routine COVID testing, and no visits from friends or family for a month and a half.
There could be a few reasons as to why the NBA decided not to test players for marijuana during the remainder of the 2020 season. Could it be because players are typically allowed to smoke during their summer break? Probably not. Is it because most players have likely been smoking during the last three months of lockdown? I doubt it. That said, I also doubt there would be a continuation of the 2020 season if players were tested before hitting the court.
I would like to believe that the NBA decided against testing players for cannabis use because they are beginning to listen to their players when they say that marijuana helps them be better athletes.
I am here to tell you first-hand that playing at such a high level during a global pandemic is going to be stressful for these guys, and if taking a couple of puffs at the beginning or end of the day helps them deal, then let them do that.
News of the NBA suspending testing for marijuana is not the only recent positive sign that the league is going green – Michele Roberts, Head of the NBA Players Association, just became a board member of Cresco Labs, a marijuana company. But it’s not all good news – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appears to be still concerned about what kind of a message a pro-marijuana policy would send to the league’s younger fans.
I have always felt that the NBA’s need to monitor and punish marijuana use was more about control than it was about the health and safety of its players. Given everything that has come to light in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death, and how much we are learning about the deep-rooted ways in which Black people have been oppressed by a society designed to uphold the power and control of rich, white men, I’m really starting to believe that perhaps I wasn’t so crazy for thinking this after all.
The bottom line? If marijuana use was ever severe enough to warrant $25,000 fines and game suspensions, there is no way the league would be letting go of testing – even in the midst of a global pandemic.
While there are many reasons I am looking forward to the return of the 2020 season, perhaps none more than the opportunity to witness these players continue to showcase themselves as the best athletes on earth, and knowing that many of them smoked that very day. But the real joy? Knowing that league executives know this, too.