Last year, the NBA commissioner announced he would be suspending random cannabis testing for players in the 2020-2021 season. With pressure from both players and hemp companies to get rid of cannabis testing permanently, the NBA and NBPA have jointly agreed to discontinue random testing for cannabis for the 2021-22 season.
Commissioner Silver stated they would be testing players who have had previous dependency concerns. This could be a dependency on cannabis, alcohol, and other drugs to make sure those players get the help they need. The MLB also halted testing their players for any type of cannabis or THC.
The NFL invested more than $1 million into research on the viability of cannabis or CBD to treat pain in place of prescription medications like opioids that sparked a deadly addiction epidemic across America. Professional athletes have argued cannabis can and should be used to recover from the grueling physical rigor of their sports, as well as to maintain mental health.
Drug testing will continue for human growth hormone and performance-enhancers, along with what the league calls drugs of abuse — such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and opiates.
Extending Suspension of Random Cannabis Testing
“We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” stated NBA spokesman Mike Bass.
Stamping out in-season cannabis use by its athletes is no longer a priority. The decision has been widely praised and commended in both the cannabis and basketball world, as recreational use is now legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, including New York, where the NBA is headquartered.
“The revision of drug testing policies and a fresh look at the misguided assumptions that led to them in the first place is an essential first step,” stated Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals. “As we continue to break down stigmas that surround cannabis, governments, corporations and athletic organizations have an opportunity and obligation to drive a cultural shift toward a more tolerant and equitable future.”
He went on to say, “We’re long overdue for having an honest conversation about the benefits of this plant. It’s time to call it what it is: a viable sports medicine.”
NBA Stance on Cannabis
Commissioner Silver stated that the league’s decision on marijuana drug testing was initially made amid the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” he said at the time. “I think society’s views around marijuana has changed to a certain extent. Rather than mandate blanket tests, we will reach out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are using marijuana casually.”Since the NBA and NBPA abandon cannabis testing to take a positive step forward, it’s only the beginning of what could the future holds.