Throughout history, professional athletes have been penalized by teams, leagues, and the law for using cannabis. Below are some high profile examples that show how serious such actions have been taken in the world of professional sports.
- 2004: Running Back Ricky Williams is banned from the National Football League for 4 games after testing positive for marijuana. He then withdrew from the NFL due to his cannabis policy (before his eventual return) and was suspended for a full year in 2006 after testing positive again.
- 2015: Jon Singleton, a top prospect for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball at the time, was downgraded and banned from 100 games after testing positive for marijuana three times.
Professional sports are an example of how the treatment and attitudes of cannabis use are constantly changing across America. With education on cannabis and its benefits, we see a relaxation of the laws and regulations on cannabis use by employers for their employees. We hope that this will continue to develop in a positive direction with further training.
Cultiva Law is one of the leading cannabis law firms in the country, committed to advancing the cannabis industry through education and representation. The company supports the advancement and development of the treatment of cannabis use by the US professional sports industry.
Limitations are easing
More recently, the US professional sports industry has shifted towards easing restrictions and penalties on cannabis use. The following is a breakdown of the current state of cannabis in various American professional sports leagues:
In 2019, the NFL announced several new steps to better understand cannabis and its cannabinoids, including a desire to learn about various CBD delivery systems and how products like food, oil, and vaporizers help players as potential pain management tools can. The Pain Management Committee met with cannabidiol manufacturers to learn more about their potential, effects, and benefits.
In 2020, the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed on a new 10-year collective agreement that included a positive shift in the treatment of cannabis use by players. Under the agreement, players can no longer be banned from testing positive for THC. In addition, the threshold rose from 35 nanograms of THC to 150 nanograms in the first two weeks of the training camp.
While cannabis use is still banned by the National Basketball Association, cannabis drug testing has been suspended for the current 2020-2021 season due to “the unusual circumstances of the pandemic”.
If an NBA player tests positive for cannabis under normal circumstances, the player must be under an anti-drug treatment program for their first injury. The player then receives a fine for the second violation and a five-game suspension for no payment for their third violation.
In December 2019, Major League Baseball announced that it had reached an agreement with the Players Association to remove cannabis, THC, and CBD from the league’s list of substance abuse. According to the MLB, from February 2020, “marijuana-related behavior will be treated the same as alcohol-related behavior,” which includes mandatory assessment, voluntary treatment and possible discipline depending on behavior (the commissioner warned players not to show up to practice or get intoxicated Games).
In addition, it was announced in 2019 that minor league baseball players would no longer be tested for cannabis and that cannabis would be removed from the list of prohibited substances. Players who test positive for cannabis will be admitted to a drug abuse treatment program, but will not be excluded from games.
The National Hockey League no longer classifies cannabis as a prohibited substance, but continues to test for THC levels. If an NHL player tests positive there is no penalty. However, if abnormally high levels of THC are found, the league’s doctors recommend treatment.
On January 14, 2021, the UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency announced that they would no longer punish athletes who tested positive for THC. Previously, athletes were tested before a fight. Now, under the new change, fighters who test positive will not be penalized.
Advocacy and education
Great strides have been made in punishing cannabis use by sports teams and leagues. Another advocacy of easing restrictions and promoting the benefits of cannabis for professional athletes can only help players succeed.
Cultiva Law is fueled by the advances professional sports organizations are making in treating cannabis use in the United States. The firm’s dedicated legal team hopes to represent future ex-professional athletes in their second career as entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.