The NBA is taking a significant step by removing marijuana from its list of banned substances and will no longer subject players to drug testing for it. This decision was made as part of a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement that has been temporarily suspending cannabis testing for the past three seasons. The move codifies the league's decision to not act as Big Brother and comes at a time when society's views on marijuana have changed to a certain extent. However, the league will reach out to players who show signs of problematic dependency rather than mandate blanket tests.
This decision is part of a larger trend where several athletic governance bodies have relaxed rules around cannabinoids. For example, UFC announced in 2021 that they would no longer punish fighters over positive marijuana tests, while student athletes that are part of the NCAA will no longer automatically lose their eligibility to play following a positive marijuana test. The NFL has also made significant changes to its drug testing policy, with players no longer facing the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug, including marijuana.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), however, decided to keep marijuana on the list of banned substances for international athletes following a scientific review and a determination that cannabis use "violates the spirit of sport." Despite this, Major League Baseball (MLB) has stood out among other professional sports leagues as more willing to respond to the changing marijuana policy landscape. The league clarified in a memo in 2020 that players will not be punished for using cannabis while they aren't working, but they can't be personally sponsored by a marijuana company or hold investments in the industry. The league also teamed with NSF International to analyze and certify legal, contaminant-free CBD products in order to allow teams to store them on club premises.
If the sports leagues such as NRL, AFL, Football or Cricket decide to follow the NFL's lead and remove marijuana from their banned substances list, it could lead to a shift in the overall perception of marijuana use in sports. It could also have implications for the broader cultural acceptance of marijuana use, as these sports leagues are major cultural institutions with millions of fans around the world.
However, it is important to note that each league will have to make its own decision regarding marijuana use based on its specific circumstances and regulations. While the NFL's decision could influence other sports leagues, it is not a guarantee that they will follow suit.
In conclusion, the NBA's decision to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances is a significant step towards relaxing the rules around cannabinoids in sports. This move will undoubtedly have an impact on other professional sports leagues and the national discussion about cannabis testing policies for athletes. As society's views on marijuana continue to evolve, it is likely that other sports leagues will follow in the NBA's footsteps and adjust their policies accordingly.