For professional sports leagues, the topic of cannabis used to be nonexistent and non-negotiable. However, with 37 out of 50 states having some form of legal cannabis, many of these leagues have decided to change their stances on the topic. Although each league is taking a different approach, it is clear that cannabis is going to make a large impact in the world of sports.
Recently, the MLB started to allow baseball teams in the league to create sponsorships with cannabis companies that market CBD products and meet specific criteria. The Chief Revenue Officer, Noah Garden, said that although no CBD companies have officially received that status yet, a few brands “are in the process.” This type of partnership is something cannabis-legalization supporters have been pushing for. The MLB also clarified that players will not be penalized for using cannabis while they are not working and that they are working out the logistics to store contaminant-free CBD products on company premises. They have also taken the treatment rather than penalty approach with drug testing players.
However, not all the professional leagues have taken actions as far as the MLB’s new partnership allowance. For example, the NHL still allows testing for THC, but they decided that there would be no punishment for a positive test. An issue would only occur if there were “abnormally high levels” of THC and they would treat it as a health matter, similar to alcoholism.
Cannabis is also still prohibited for NBA players, but the league has relaxed their testing protocols; they decided that they will not be randomly testing players for marijuana as part of their COVID-19 “restart bubble.” They are still drug testing for performance-enhancers and illegal substances, but marijuana is no longer included on that list.
Meanwhile, the NFL is the most strict when it comes to players and cannabis use. Nonetheless, they loosened many cannabis restrictions, following the other leagues. They reduced their testing windows from four months to two weeks before training camp, allowing the players to use marijuana throughout the offseason without fearing punishment. They also replaced suspensions for a positive test with fines and raised the nanogram level from 35 to 150 nanograms of THC to be considered testing positive.
Overall, the professional sports industry is continuing to move in a positive direction with cannabis. Many of the players unions within each league are still pushing for looser testing and less fines. Yet, marijuana is one of the most popular topics throughout sports fans and teams alike.