The NBA and the NBA Player’s Association have come to an agreement to halt randomized marijuana testing for the 2020-21 season.
Why is the NBA suspending marijuana tests?
NBA Spokesperson Mike Bass commented on the decision, “due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse”.
The NBA’s announcement comes on the heels of a similar policy during the league’s previous season. When the 2019-2020 season was suspended and eventually moved into a performance bubble due to COVID-19, the NBA announced that it wouldn’t conduct recreational drug tests throughout the duration of the bubble. Rumors and speculation followed that players were taking full advantage of the policy change.
Marijuana Use in the NBA During a Pandemic
NBC Sports reported that, when NBA players were asked to anonymously predict the percentage of cannabis users in NBA locker rooms, estimates ranged from 50% to upwards of 85%.
NBA veteran Al Harrington also backed up the halt on cannabis testing, saying – “When you think about it, it’s damn near inhumane for [NBA players in the bubble] not to have marijuana. These guys are going to need something to get away. Normally in the course of the season, the playoffs, if you have a bad game, you have a bad turnover to lose the game, you get to go home and see your kids. In this bubble situation, you can’t get away from the bad game. From a mental wellness standpoint, they’re going to need vices. If I had to choose as an owner, I’m choosing cannabis over them taking pills, over them drinking liquor and being dehydrated. You’re going to need THC in the bubble”.
In addition to the stress relieving properties of cannabis, many cannabis advocates within the world of athletics cite weed as an essential tool in workout and performance recovery. THC and CBD – the central active components in marijuana – are known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, resulting in reduced inflammation, pain relief, and better sleep. With many NBA-occupied states having legalized recreational pot already, including a bevvy more that have legalized medically and/or decriminalized, it’s only common sense that players should reap the benefits of the plant.
Marijuana Testing in Major Sports Leagues
Other major sports leagues have already altered their stance on the substance, with the MLB and NFL amending their drug test policies so that cannabis doesn’t result in suspension. However, up until the recent changes, NBA league rules stated that players who test positive for marijuana three times will be suspended for five games. And despite the halting of random tests, the NBA can still continue to test players “for cause” if there’s any suspicion.
According to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the main concern is use of the drug before games, along with possible “mental wellness concerns” – but there doesn’t seem to be much issue otherwise. In 2019, Silver said, “If they want to smoke pot, whatever, it’s legal in a lot of states. We have no issue with that”.
The slightly-reduced 2020-21 NBA season – along with the amended drug policy – will begin on December 22nd.
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