The use of any kind of drug is up for debate in professional sports. When cannabis was uniformly prohibited, professional sports drug tests showing the drug were cut and dry. But what will sports leagues do now that cannabis is widely legal for medical and recreational use?
Here’s how America’s sports leagues are dealing with the legalities of cannabis in professional sports.
Major League Baseball
CBD is a popular option for baseball players who need pain relief. However, it can often cause a positive drug test. The MLB also recognized that players used cannabis for pain management, which made drug testing difficult.
That’s why the MLB has removed cannabis from its list of “drugs of abuse.” Today, the league treats cannabis use like alcohol: you can’t be visibly under the influence while playing. Players won’t be penalized for positive cannabis tests, although they can still face professional penalties for illegal activity, like driving high.
National Basketball Association
As of today, the NBA drug tests all players 4 times in a season. If a player shows a positive test for cannabis use, they’re required to either get treatment, pay a hefty fine, or face suspensions.
The problem is that cannabis can be present in the human body up to 4 weeks after one use. The NBA’s policy meant players who used cannabis a month ago were just as “guilty” as players who consumed the night before.
Today, the NBA is reconsidering its harsh penalties for cannabis use, although it doesn’t seem open to discontinuing cannabis testing.
National Hockey League
The NHL has one of the most liberal cannabis policies of all the sports leagues. While it does include cannabis on its drug tests, it doesn’t penalize players for testing positive. Instead, the NHL treats cannabis like alcohol: if players have a very, very high positive on THC, they treat them as if they’re intoxicated. There are no penalties, fees, or suspensions involved, but players may be referred to a drug treatment program, depending on the situation.
National Football Association
The NFL was known for having some of the strictest cannabis rules on the books. However, the NFL player’s union is currently pushing for changes to the NFL’s drug testing policy to better reflect the player’s needs.
If a collective bargaining agreement passes by March 18, during the 2020 - 2021 season, the NFL will:
Reduce its window for cannabis testing from 4 months to just 2 weeks.
Raise the limit for what counts as a positive result. Currently, it’s 35 nanograms of THC, but under the new rules, this would rise to 150 nanograms.
Remove harsh penalties, like suspensions, for positive results.
Test fewer players.
Every sports league is changing its attitude toward cannabis. While some are more progressive than others, it’s clear that policy change is essential for fair, common-sense sports in America.
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