Can Pro Athletes Use Marijuana?

Pro Sports Leagues’ Stances Of Athlete Cannabis Use

Plenty of NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL teams call weed-friendly states or provinces home. Of the 123 teams in these leagues, over a third play in areas that have legalized recreational cannabis, and about half of these leagues’ teams play in areas that have legalized medical cannabis.

But that doesn’t always give players a pass, even if they were to use the plant to treat chronic joint or muscle pain.

Most pro-sports leagues actually have an established set of rules pertaining to their players’ cannabis consumption. These are often strict rules – some athletes aren’t allowed to go anywhere near weed. But not all leagues are built the same, and some are being revamped in response to the changing stigma against cannabis.

With that being said, let’s explore some of North America’s biggest sports leagues and their approach to athlete’s cannabis usage.

The National Hockey League

The NHL – which just announced its newest addition, the Seattle Kraken hockey team – is pretty lenient compared to other leagues. Hockey players won’t find themselves in the penalty box for getting high, since the league does not issue punishments towards players who test positive for cannabis use. In fact, marijuana isn’t even on the league’s banned substances list.

The National Football League

The NFL has a much stricter drug monitoring system. During football season, ten players are selected at random to participate in a drug test, and every player is eligible. Upon testing positive for cannabis use, players are required to enter a substance abuse support program. If they are caught a second time, they are penalized and can end up with multi-game suspensions and can even catch a year-long ban.

Players must also take one off-season drug test.

Some players are fighting back against these rules, including retirees Marvin Washington and Leonard Marshall. They’ve advocated for changes to the rules, acknowledging that players could manage and treat pain symptoms with the plant.

The National Basketball Association

Unlike football players, pros in the NBA are allowed to do whatever they want off-season, but when it’s game time, they must smarten up. Each player must take a total of four drug tests which are administered at random throughout the season.

If a player is found to have used marijuana, they must enter a substance abuse program, similar to the NFL. Getting caught a second time comes at a high price: players must pay a $25,000 fine. Upon more instances of cannabis use, players receive a five-game suspension per violation.

READ MORE: Is The NBA Changing Its Stance On Marijuana?

Major League Baseball

The MLB recently removed cannabis from its banned substances list for the off-season. But the league has recommended that players don’t take the rules still in place lightly. Players who, as described by deputy commissioner Dan Halem, “appear under the influence of marijuana or any other cannabinoid during any of the Club’s games, practices, workouts, meetings or otherwise during the course and within the scope of their employment” will undergo a “mandatory evaluation” and could be placed in a treatment program.

Still, the league’s rules are pretty relaxed, considering tests are not administered at random.

As you can see, different leagues have different rules when it comes to athletes using cannabis both during their regular season and their off-time. But, as the negative stigma surrounding cannabis continues to break down and medical properties of the plant continue to be discovered – especially when it comes to relieving muscle pain for athletes – here’s hoping leagues will start changing their tune.

READ MORE: Kevin Durant Calls For Cannabis To Be Removed From The NBA’s Banned Substance List