BY: Ganja Goddess
The NBA is ending its war on drugs. At least, for now. The National Basketball Association has reached an agreement with its players union that ensures players will no longer be tested for weed or other recreational drugs when the abbreviated season resumes in July in Orlando, FL. Athletes will only be screened for performance enhancing drugs, effectively allowing players to consume marijuana without fear of repercussion. There has been no official announcement regarding policy changes for next season.
For an organization that encourages political thought and action for its players, the NBA is embarrassingly behind the times when it comes to its stance on cannabis. The National Hockey League was the first major American sports league to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances, followed by the National Baseball League, followed in December 2019. Both organizations are more focused on removing opioids and performance enhancing drugs. It simply looks terrible for the NBA to enforce draconian punishments for cannabis users in a league that is 81% black and brown, while the MLB, which is still 58% white deems cannabis irrelevant. Retired point guard Jay Williams once claimed that up to 80% of the NBA uses marijuana in some form or another. Under normal NBA rules, players can be drug tested up six times a year: four times per season and twice in the off season, while counterparts in whiter sports are never tested for cannabis. The disparities persist, even in professional sports.
This change is an abrupt reversal of the league’s previous public stance just a few months ago, which led to the indefinite suspension of Malik Monk from the Charlotte Hornets when he was found in violation of the league’s anti-drug program. The NBA had reached a paradoxical (some might say hypocritical) point where a positive weed test is considered career ending, but speaking out politically is encouraged.
The corona-virus shutdown upended the business model and forced leadership to reevaluate and re-prioritize. While League Commissioner Adam Silver has towed the line regarding his personal stance on cannabis use, he now compares the league’s stance on marijuana to its stance on alcohol. “When we change our policy, we have to be really careful because we’re clearly sending a message to young people,” Silver said when news of the suspension of testing broke. “Just like with alcohol, you have to teach young people how to use a substance appropriately and responsibly, so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.”
The tides are turning, and it’s hard to imagine that the NBA will go backwards by repealing the changes when the new season starts. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the player’s union, recently joined the board of directors for Cresco, a major, U.S. based cannabis producer. Malik Monk’s status as a player has been reinstated. If these changes persist, this transition could serve as a model to other corporate entities for managing people with a “record” related to cannabis use. Remove the charges, and let them start over, give them another chance to contribute.
Until that change is solidified, the relationship between weed and sports will continue to be fraught with secrecy. Current pro athletes from all leagues have spoken in support of cannabis. Retired athletes, ailing from long held sports injuries, often become vocal advocates after their career has ended. Former stars like John Salley and Al Harrington have invested in the cannabis industry. The reality is that there are players in all leagues using marijuana in some ?form for some reason. It’s time to stop draconian enforcement of outdated cannabis laws, and for once, it seems that most of the world of professional sports is on the right track.