Major League Baseball (MLB)—a sport that I've always found far more interesting when high—announced last week they're changing how they treat their players who use cannabis. It’s a decision designed as part of a harm reduction strategy for other more dangerous, and sometimes fatal, substances.
Beginning with spring training 2020, MLB players will no longer be penalized if they test positive for THC. Marijuana Moment looks at the announcement made by the MLB and the MLB players union, which takes a number of steps beyond simply making cannabis a non-banned substance. Prior to this announcement, writes Marijuana Moment, “a positive test resulted in mandatory treatment, and failure to comply was punishable by a fine of up to $35,000.”
Rather than focusing on if players are using cannabis, they'll be judged in the manner in which they conduct themselves when doing so (aka the stoner “check yourself before you wreck yourself” rule which we should all always follow). Per the MLB press release: “Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids.” In other words, don't be a Ganja Goofus, be a Ganja Gallant, and we're cool.
The agreement specifies that players will still be drug tested, including tests for cocaine, fentanyl, and interestingly, synthetic cannabinoids. Players who test positive will be given the option of treatment first. Fines and penalties will only be imposed if the player refuses. The press release goes on to say the agreement “favor(s) a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it.” There will also be mandatory classes about "the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana.”
It's a welcome and progressive viewpoint, and eclipses the last century thinking by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), which earlier this year suspended PGA Tour player Robert Garrigus for three months after failing a drug test for cannabis—the first time a player has ever been suspended for what the AP deemed “conduct policy that applies to substances of abuse.”
There exists the possibility that the NFL may soon see a change in their cannabis policies as well. They are currently in collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the players union, which is the only period in which owners can make policy changes regarding cannabis and other banned substances. Dallas Cowboys owner (and consistently disappointed man this year) Jerry Jones made some noise recently during an interview saying, "We always need to be careful when looking at our behavior," on marijuana and how MLB is dropping it from tested drugs. “I think that you should expect and will expect an adjustment."
Even MAGA hat-owning serial cheater Tom Brady recently said in an interview: “I know there’s been talks about that in the NFL as well, and I think the stigma is being removed. And hopefully they’re doing a lot of research into whatever benefits there may come from it.” Cheater McCheaterson then added, "I don’t know enough about it, I am sure there are a lot experts out there that could weigh in.”
This viewpoint is not shared by all NFL owners of course. In January, I wrote about how CBS turned down a 30-second medical marijuana commercial during the Super Bowl, leading Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank to say that as far as letting NFL players use medical cannabis, "I probably would not be in favor of it because I am concerned about the gateway affect that it has on other drugs."
And no piece about banned substances and sportsball would be complete without the inclusion of the story of a legendary no-hitter inning thrown by MLB pitcher Dock Ellis... while he was tripping on acid... 50 years ago next summer. (INSANE respect.) It’s a story well recounted in this Sports Illustrated piece about that inning and how Ellis shined like a crazy diamond off the field as well.