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NBA Won’t Test for Cannabis When Season Resumes, Report Says

The National Basketball Association will suspend testing players for marijuana during a special resumed 2019-2020 to begin in Orlando, Florida at the end of July, according to a report earlier this week. 

In a tweet on June 8th, Shams Charania, a reporter for the Athletic and Stadium reported that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to suspend testing for recreational drugs during the resumed 2019-2020 season, but will continue to test for performance enhancing drugs. 

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)

In March, after the league decided to suspend the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NBPA reached an agreement with the league to suspend drug testing during the hiatus. 

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. 

More cannabis connections for NBA players

Also this week, Cresco Labs, a publicly-traded cannabis and medical marijuana company, announced that the head of the NBAPA has been appointed to its board of directors.

In a press release, the company stated that they expect NBA Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts to use “drawing on her experience in leading one of the most important player organizations in the sports world and her expertise in law and litigation as a highly-accomplished trial attorney and educator.”

The move also makes Roberts a rare female person of color in an industry that is disproportionately white, especially on the leadership level. Cresco Labs’ CEO and Co-Founder Charlie Bachtell is quoted in the press release as saying “We are advocates of a more diverse and inclusive cannabis industry, and we are thrilled to have Michele’s counsel, experience and leadership to help influence the development of both our Company and this industry. We believe her contributions will be invaluable to Cresco.”

In the press release, Roberts stated that she hopes that her work can help advance the company’s efforts “to better both individual lives and underrepresented communities.”

A number of current and former basketball players have entered the cannabis business in recent years. Among others, she joins former Detroit Pistons great John Salley, who has his own Cannabis brand, current NBA superstar forward Kevin Durant, who recently joined the strategic advisory board of Canopy Rivers, an investment company affiliated with major cannabis industry firm Canopy Growth, and former player Al Harrington, who also founded his own cannabis firm.  

Since Roberts took over as the head of the NBAPA in 2014, the league has taken a number of steps to ease enforcement of cannabis restrictions. Under the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2018, “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.”

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