The National Basketball Association (NBA) is making headlines by removing marijuana from its list of banned substances and ceasing drug testing as part of a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement. Initially reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, this change formalizes the league’s decision to suspend cannabis testing for the past three seasons temporarily. The move follows NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s indication in late 2020 that the policy might eventually become permanent.
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NBA’s Progressive Stance on Marijuana
The league has been progressive in its approach to marijuana. Commissioner Adam Silver expresses the need to adapt to societal changes and focus on helping players with problematic dependency rather than penalizing casual users. Michele Roberts, former head of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), who also joined the board of significant cannabis company Cresco Labs, had predicted a formal policy change would happen soon.
This shift comes amid partnerships between NBA stars like Kevin Durant and online marijuana marketplace Weedmaps, aimed at destigmatizing cannabis and highlighting its potential benefits for athlete wellness and recovery.
Cannabis Testing Policies in the Spotlight
The NBA’s decision comes as the global conversation on cannabis testing policies for athletes gains momentum. The suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson from participating in the Olympics due to a positive THC test has sparked debate, prompting even the White House and President Joe Biden to question the continued ban on marijuana. Despite this, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has opted to keep marijuana on its list of banned substances for international athletes, claiming its use “violates the spirit of sport.”
Other Leagues Embracing Cannabis Reforms
Major League Baseball (MLB) has emerged as one of the most progressive professional sports leagues regarding cannabis policy. The league has allowed baseball teams to sell sponsorships to cannabis companies marketing CBD products and permits players to use cannabis when not working. The MLB’s policy changes build upon its 2019 decision to remove cannabis from the list of banned substances. Other leagues, such as the UFC and the NFL, have also relaxed their rules surrounding cannabinoids.
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Limitations on NBA Players’ Involvement with Marijuana Companies
The new collective bargaining agreement limits NBA players’ involvement with marijuana companies. According to a summary document of the agreement, players will not be allowed to promote marijuana companies, although they can promote companies producing CBD products. This means NBA stars like Kevin Durant won’t be launching their own lines of intoxicating cannabis products or publicly endorsing marijuana brands.
The agreement does permit players to invest in CBD companies without specific restrictions, and they can also “hold a passive, non-controlling interest in a company that makes products containing marijuana.” As previously reported, the most impactful change in the league’s policy is the removal of marijuana drug testing requirements, with marijuana being taken off the Prohibited Substances List.
Despite these changes, the agreement maintains certain boundaries for players. Teams can refer players to a treatment program if they believe a player is under the influence of marijuana during NBA or team-related activities or if the player has a dependency issue. This stipulation ensures that players can legally consume cannabis off the court but are still prohibited from using it during games or team-related events like press conferences.
What’s Next for Weed in the NBA?
The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement marks a significant step forward in the evolving relationship between professional sports and cannabis. As societal views on marijuana shift and its medical applications become more widely accepted, more leagues will likely follow the example set by the NBA, MLB, and NFL. The decision to remove the marijuana ban acknowledges the changing landscape, prioritizes the well-being of athletes, and encourages a more compassionate approach toward substance use in professional sports.