NBA’s Progressive Move: Removing Marijuana from Banned Substances List and Prioritizing Player Wellness

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has made a groundbreaking and progressive decision to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances, no longer requiring drug testing for cannabis as part of a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement. This change in NBA’s marijuana policy, initially reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, solidifies what has been a temporary suspension of cannabis testing for the past three seasons and reflects the evolving attitude towards marijuana use in sports.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hinted at this eventual policy change in late 2020, following the league’s initial suspension of cannabis testing when players competed in a quarantined “bubble” in Orlando at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Silver acknowledged society’s changing views on marijuana and emphasized the importance of focusing on player wellness rather than mandatory drug tests.

By adopting a more compassionate approach, the NBA will concentrate on reaching out to players who exhibit signs of problematic dependency on marijuana, instead of penalizing those using cannabis casually. This shift in policy is part of the new seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, a move that began during the 2019-20 season.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced that they have reached a tentative agreement on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is pending ratification by players and team governors. The details of this agreement, which includes the NBA’s new marijuana policy, will be released once a term sheet is finalized.

Michele Roberts, a former head of the NBPA and a board member of cannabis company Cresco Labs, had previously predicted that a formal change to the policy might be imminent. In 2021, NBA star Kevin Durant announced a multi-year collaboration with the online marijuana marketplace Weedmaps, aimed at destigmatizing cannabis and showcasing its potential value for athlete wellness and recovery.

The NBA’s decision comes as the national conversation on cannabis testing policies for athletes continues, following the suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson from participating in the Olympics over a positive THC test. Richardson’s case has raised questions about the fairness of marijuana bans in professional sports and whether such policies should be reconsidered.

The NBA’s progressive policy change reflects a growing trend among professional sports leagues, such as Major League Baseball (MLB) and the NFL, which have relaxed rules around cannabinoids as laws change and medical applications become more widely accepted. As public opinion and laws continue to shift, other professional sports leagues may follow suit in reconsidering their approach to cannabis use among athlete (Source)

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