Growing support for medical pot use in sports

Pot remains on banned substance lists of NFL, NBA

Al Harrington (left) is a proponent of legal marijuana in the NBA

This week, Canada will join Uruguay, South Africa, Georgia and nine U.S. states as a jurisdiction where it is legal to use weed for recreational purposes.

For sports, this raises questions regarding the use of the drug by athletes.

As it stands, there is a major divide between the big four sports — hockey, baseball, basketball and football — on how serious an offence their players smoking pot ought to be.

The NFL and NBA continue to have strong protocols in place, while the MLB and NHL tend to look the other way, or privately punish players who test positive for THC.

Pot is not currently on the NHL’s list of banned substances because the league does not view it as a performance enhancing drug.

However, the league does test its players for THC and the players that test positive receive a call from league officials, and substance abuse treatment if needed.

The NHL can make it mandatory for players to see doctors about substance abuse if tested positive. However the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said there are no plans of changing the league’s stance on weed after it becomes legalized in Canada.

The MLB, similarly, is not focused on cannabis use by its players, as the league tends to focus more on performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids.

The NFL and NBA both suspend and fine players who test positive for THC. The drug is not considered as a performance enhancer by the MLB, as well as all World Anti-Doping Agency compliant organizations, but the leagues continue to keep it on their banned substance lists.


Medical marijuana and the winds of change

David Stern — NBA commissioner from 1984 to 2014 — was an integral part of why the league is so strict on pot use today, but has changed his tune in recent years.

According to the Washington Post, Stern said weed “probably should be removed from the banned substance list.”

Stern continued to say the perception of the drug seems to have changed from when he was commissioner of the NBA.

“I think there’s universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal,” Stern said

Most players who argue pot should be allowed in their leagues are arguing for medicinal use to help with recovering from injuries.

Stern agreed, saying if marijuana helped him and other players with the healing process, then the league should educate team doctors to be able to distribute pot to players.

Eugene Monroe, former offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, also argued for pot use in the NFL back in 2016.

Monroe told USA Today he believes allowing players to consume pot is safer than the possibility of players becoming addicted to prescribed opioids, such as oxycontin.

However, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell disagreed and said he sees no medical benefits from pot.

According to ESPN, Goodell also said smoking weed may not be healthy for his players long term.

ESPN also noted that Goodell made these comments after more than 1,800 former players filed a lawsuit claiming the prescription drugs distributed by their teams caused them to suffer long-term health problems.