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NBA Stops Marijuana Testing During Coronavirus Hiatus, Report Says

The NBA Players Association has reached an agreement with the basketball league to call off drug testing during the hiatus imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, Yahoo! Sports reported on Monday.

This would arguably give players more options for how to pass the time with all games and team practices cancelled. The season was postponed until further notice last week, after Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls
File photo of an NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls. (Felix Lipov/123rf)

Marijuana and performance-enhancing drugs are banned by the NBA, though nearly one-third of teams play in jurisdictions where recreational marijuana use is legal for adults over the age of 21. 

In June 2019, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said of marijuana “when I’ve talked to players about it, I think they have mixed feelings. It’s not so much about what guys do in the summer. If they want to smoke pot, whatever, it’s legal in a lot of states. We have no issue with that.”

Under NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement, “if a player tests positive for Marijuana, or if he is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, the use or possession of marijuana, he will be required to submit to treatment, counseling, and aftercare testing in the Program. A second violation will result in a $25,000 fine, a third violation will result in a 5-game suspension, and any subsequent violations will result in a suspension that is 5 games longer than the player’s immediately preceding Marijuana suspension.”

NFL Will Stop Punishing Cannabis Use

NFL football game
File photo of an NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. (xsight/123rf)

The Yahoo! Report came just days after the National Football League reached an agreement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) on Saturday night to no longer suspend players if they test positive for marijuana.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the window for testing will be reduced from four months of the year to only two weeks at the start of training camp, and fewer players will be subject to testing. Those who test positive will not be suspended. 

Today, nine NFL teams play in states with legal recreational marijuana retail stores, and most of the league’s 23 remaining teams are located in states with legal medical marijuana programs. 

The new rules also increase the allowed amount of THC from 35 to 150 nanograms.

According to the NFLPA, under the new agreement, “violations of law for marijuana possession generally will not result in suspension.”

If a player does test positive during the testing period in training camp, a medical board can then decide if the player is in need of treatment. Under the old guidelines, NFL players were tested once each offseason and 10 players on each team were randomly tested each week. The second violation would mean the loss of two paychecks, with each subsequent failed test resulting in more fines and eventually game suspensions. 

The NFL also lists synthetic cannabinoids as a prohibited substance

NFL Players Pushing for Reform

Research into the potential health benefits of cannabis for patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries — a common condition among current and former NFL players — is promising, and a number of former NFL players have gone on the record about the positive benefits cannabis treatment has had for them in dealing with cranial trauma.

In an interview with The Cannigma earlier this month, former NFL player Kyle Turley said he used cannabis throughout his professional sports career. “It helped me to sleep better, recover better. My best seasons were after I started using cannabis and my body was able to recover and my mind was able to heal in waves.”

Last December, Major League Baseball voted to remove marijuana from its list of “drugs of abuse” and stop testing players for THC. The National Hockey League is the only other major professional sports league in America that doesn’t ban cannabis use by players. 

Advocates of cannabis treatments in sports argue it can help with inflammation, recovery, anxiety, pain relief, and other issues athletes face and use other medications to treat. Particularly in pain relief, doctors and others believe cannabis can provide a safer alternative to dangerous and addictive opioid medications.

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