Cannabis has spread its tendrils so deep into the American psyche that even our sports have been infected. And we aren't just talking about the petition to make being a Bengals or Browns fan a qualifying condition for a medical cannabis card in Ohio (although that really happened).
Last December, Major League Baseball made the startling announcement that it was removing marijuana from the list of “drugs of abuse.” That means players will now be able to benefit from using medicinal cannabis and CBD without fear of losing their jobs.
According to a statement from MLB and the players union, removing the ban on cannabis is only one of the major changes made to the organization's drug policy. As of spring training, players will now be tested for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC along with the other “drugs of abuse.” Under the new policy, players will also be required to attend educational programs on “the dangers of opioid pain medication and practical approaches to marijuana.”
According to CNN, players who test positive for one of the “drugs of abuse” will be prescribed a treatment plan by a treatment board of medical professionals. Those who refuse an evaluation or don't cooperate with the treatment board will be subject to discipline. MLB said “marijuana-related conduct” will be treated in the same manner as “alcohol-related conduct.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that the oxycodone-related death of 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels' pitcher Tyler Skaggs in July was a motivating factor in the policy change.
While taking part in a radio interview on 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas, Texas, Jerry Jones, owner of football team the Dallas Cowboys, said he expects the National Football League (NFL) to adjust its drug policy in a similar fashion following the MLB move. Pro Football Talk recently noted that NFL teams (and all professional sports teams, one would assume) will soon be unable to successfully ban the substance in states where laws protect employees from being disciplined for marijuana use.
Former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Al Harrington told the Washington Post that he expects the league to follow suit soon and that about “90 percent” of the players he's spoken to support the idea of removing the NBA's cannabis ban. He also claimed that at least seven players on the 2013-14 Washington Wizards used cannabis in the off season.
And apparently the National Hockey League (NHL) tests for “drugs of abuse,” but refrains from punishing players in any way. They might be encouraged to enter a drug treatment program, but they aren't required to do anything.
It shouldn't be surprising that athletes use cannabis, considering the punishment their bodies have to endure. What is surprising is that so many sports organizations continue to fight against progress. According to ESPN, the majority of teams in the NFL and NBA are located in cities where marijuana or CBD is legal either for recreation or medically. It seems needlessly cruel to cut players off from this therapeutic drug while they're ruining their bodies for a job that in no way would be described as a “safety-sensitive position.”