For Professional Athletes, access to Cannabis comes as easy as snapping their finger and in no way should that surprise you. Pro-athletes often achieve success and financial prosperity years before others in their age bracket. They often have resources and entourages at their disposal, placing their every want and need on their doorstep. Consequently the four major professional sports in the United States (NBA,NFL, MLB,NHL) have taken notice. However, none of the leagues or player associations have been able to unify their policing of Cannabis. They all enforce different regulations punishments. The following is a breakdown and analysis of the current systems in place.
MLB’s Policy on Cannabis
Let’s start with the most polished of all the sports, Major League Baseball, where Cannabis (specifically marijuana) is listed as a Schedule 1 stimulant. What’s interesting is that Cannabis is first on the list, above cocaine, PCP and the rest; but I’ll leave that fact for you to draw your own conclusions on.
After tediously combing through all 75 pages of the 2015 MLB Drug Test Policy, it breaks down like this:
First Infraction – Subject to Follow-up Testing (Yes that’s it!)
Second Infraction – 25 Game Suspension
Third Infraction – 80 Game Suspension
Fourth Infraction – Banned from League (Commissioners Discretion)
NBA’s Policy on Cannabis
While MLB spreads testing across a multitude of substances, the NBA has been more centrally focused on Cannabis testing. Past reasoning being that HGH and other performance enhancing substances are perceived to be less valuable to the skill set of the NBA player, as illogical and unproven as that may sound. The NBA is, however, attempting to keep up with the Jones’ as they are set to initiate a performance enhancing drug (PED) test policy beginning in the 2016 season.
First Infraction – Mandatory Completion of Substance Abuse treatment
Second Infraction – $25,000 Fine – No Suspension
Third Infraction – 5 Game Suspension
Fourth Infraction – 10 Games (5 More Games for Each Positive Test Thereafter)
The adoption of a PED policy years after Cannabis testing was put in place, while a positive step, highlights the unique social perceptions separating Cannabis and PED’s, especially pertaining to the business of professional sports. The bottom line being that, until recently, Cannabis was viewed simply on the recreational side of the coin. As medical advancements continue to be uncovered, the NBA may discover that medical Cannabis, when applied responsibly and professionally, can actually improve the product on the court by allowing players access to a medicine that is without chemicals or toxins. Exclusion of these chemicals and poisons could actually act to elongate professional careers due to the proven health benefits on the liver and kidneys among other organs affected by extended painkiller use.
NFL’s Policy on Cannabis
Unlike the NBA and MLB, the NFL has actually taken recent steps to lessen punishment for positive Cannabis tests(See Josh Gordon). A tangible example of this was the raising of the threshold for a positive test from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 35ng/ml. In addition the NFL uses suspension as a last resort, coming into effect after the fourth positive test. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given that the NFL, more than any other sport, does everything it can to keep players on the field. Here is the NFL breakdown:
First Infraction – Mandatory Rehabilitation Program
Second Infraction – 2 Game Fine (Can Play Un-Paid)
Third Infraction – 4 Game Fine (Can Play Un-Paid)
Fourth Infraction – 4 Game Suspension
Fifth Infraction – 10 Game Suspension
While the NBA, NFL, and MLB all have policies set in stone, there is one league out there that is actually Cannabis friendly, the NHL. That’s right, the NHL does NOT include Cannabis on its list of banned substances. Meaning that, as long as your public conduct is not detrimental to the league(ie arrests, DUI’s) you can feel free to hit and run all you want, the pipe that is.
That’s right, the NHL does NOT include Cannabis on its list of banned substances.
So there it is, the most up to date listing of Cannabis testing in major professional sports. Each league has its own views on the Cannabis issue and guidelines on what constitutes a positive test. It is important to remember that professional sports tend to employ a business first mentality. While the first offenses may be standard, in most cases multiple time offenders will be judged in accordance to the commissioner of their league. Considering the politics and business of sports, be prepared to see player banishment handled on a case-by-case basis, based on popularity and time of the season. After all, when it comes to the business of sports, cash rules everything.
What are your thoughts on these players association’s stance on cannabis? Comment below…
Photo Credit: Abigail Keenan