Cannabis New Status in Professional Sports Leagues

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Nearly two-thirds of the public in the United States recently supported the legalization of cannabis, while major professional sports leagues are also making adjustments to cannabis policy. More and more athletes are using marijuana to treat pain, and the four major sports leagues in the United States are reducing restrictions and penalties. Especially this year, the NFL cancels the suspension and fines for drug testing for marijuana-positive athletes; NBA Players Union Chairman serves as cannabis company Cresco Labs Director.

The four major sports leagues, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, have a total of 123 teams, of which 101 teams play in 33 states that allow the use of medical marijuana. The District of Columbia and 11 states have completely legalized recreational cannabis.

  • Texas: Astros, Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers, Rockets, Stars, Spurs, Texans
  • North Carolina: Hornets, Hurricanes, Panthers
  • Tennessee: Grizzlies, Predators, Titans
  • Indiana: Colts, Pacers
  • Wisconsin: Brewers, Bucks, Packers

The 22 teams mentioned above are still prohibiting the use of any cannabis. The Professional Sports League’s adjustments to cannabis regulations are consistent with most states allowing some form of legal cannabis use.

League policies:

  • NHL: The NHL will conduct a marijuana test on the players, and the test shows that there is no risk of punishment if it is positive. If “abnormally high levels” of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) detected in the player’s body, it regarded as a health care problem (just like alcoholism).
  • MLB: In December last year, cannabis was removed from the MLB’s Prohibited Substances List, and is now treated the same as alcohol. However, players will be subject to disciplinary action for using or possessing drugs. The league sent a memo to the team last week, warning them not to appear “high” on the court.
  • NFL: The proposed CBA that players will vote for will significantly reduce the test time from nearly four months to two weeks, and raise the threshold for positive tests from 35 ng to 150 ng. As early as March of this year, the NFL said it would no longer require players who tested positive for cannabis to suspend the game, and the test for the drug was limited to once a year. Overall, the new policy will “focus more on clinical treatment than punishment.”
  • NBA: Marijuana is still one of the banned substances in the NBA. Players undergo four random tests during the regular season. The punishment procedures for a positive marijuana test are no penalty (first time); $25,000 fine (second time); suspension of five games (third time) to suspension of ten games (fourth time). Besides, Michele Roberts, executive director of NBA Payers Union, joined the board of Cresco Labs and had previously expressed support for basketball players using cannabis.


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