The NBA has been particularly good at making changes over the years, but the league has also been surprisingly slow to adapt to new tendencies and modern lines of thought. One area that has always been an issue lies in the use of cannabis. Until 2020, the NBA was the one league across the four major sports to continue testing players for the use of cannabis, something that had already stopped in the NFL, MLB, and NHL.
However, this new policy, temporary at first but likely to be made permanent sooner than later, is not likely to come with massive changes across The Association. Under the new guidelines, NBA players will not be tested for the use of marijuana anymore. Sources said this was related to COVID-19, but it would be foolish to believe cannabis isn’t around the league.
Perhaps the best example can be taken by the comments of Kenyon Martin, who retired in 2015 after 15 seasons and estimated that 85 percent of professional basketball players used cannabis. In addition, in 2020, six NBA players anonymously surveyed by NBC Sports indicated at least 50% of the league consumed cannabis in some form, with the number potentially reaching as high as 85 percent. Coaches know players use it, and some — Don Nelson, for instance — even approved that.
One thing that’s certain is that the use of cannabis provides relief, and players — both in the NBA and the NFL — believe using cannabis is the way to go over prescription pills to deal with pain. And if the NBA is slowly making changes to accept the use of cannabis, the NFL has taken things a step further.
The league’s new labor agreement eased rules about players’ use and caught up with many sports that had already liberalized their policies. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players who test positive for marijuana will no longer be suspended. Testing will be limited to the first two weeks of training camp instead of from April to August, and the THC levels to determine whether a player tests positive will be raised as well — from 35 nanograms to 150. It’s an effort to comply with new times and new policies in an ever-changing world.
Just like in the case of the NBA, though, that’s not expected to come with massive changes among players. What the NFL is doing — and other leagues should follow its example — is putting a change in their approach. The league is moving away from a punishment approach and toward providing help for those that need it. If you have been keeping up with the most updated NFL news over the past few years you would have seen the issues Josh Gordon had attempting to stay in the league while using cannabis. Fans universally agreed that the use of cannabis was no reason for Josh Gordon to be suspended and ultimately unable to play in the league. Moving towards a more lax testing policy not only will benefit the players but fans as well.
Only time will tell whether these changes become permanent (in the case of the NBA) or if the restrictions continue to disappear (in the case of the NFL). Although this is currently temporary, according to BetQL’s experts this could have a positive impact for fans as we will see fewer missed games due to injuries, fewer suspensions, and an overall better product in both leagues.