NBA Contract Allowing Players To Smoke Weed Goes Into Effect
The National Basketball Association has removed cannabis from its list of banned substances under a new contract that allows the league’s players to smoke weed and invest in cannabis companies. The new collective bargaining, which was ratified by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) in April, went into effect on Saturday, July 1, and will be in place through the 2029-2030 season.
On Friday, the league and the players union announced that the final long-form version of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been completed and signed. The terms of the new CBA had previously been reflected in a shorter-form memorandum of agreement.
Under the new contract, cannabis will be removed from the NBA’s list of banned substances. The agreement also ends marijuana screenings for players, giving them the opportunity to smoke marijuana and use other cannabis products without fear of reprisal.
Although players will be permitted to use cannabis and will no longer be tested for weed, the new contract does have some limitations. Athletes will not be permitted to be high at games, practices or other team functions, and cannabis use that becomes problematic will still be subject to action from the league.
“A team that has reason to believe one of its players is under the influence of marijuana or alcohol while engaged in NBA or team-related activities, or has a dependency issue involving marijuana or alcohol, may refer the player to a required evaluation treatment program,” according to a summary of the contract.
The agreement also notes that the “NBA and teams may impose reasonable discipline on players who are under the influence while engaged in any team activity or in violation of the law.”
The CBA also allows players to invest in the cannabis industry. Players will be permitted to invest in CBD companies, and may “hold a passive, non-controlling interest in a company that makes products containing marijuana.” Additionally, the summary of the labor agreement states that although players “may promote a company that makes products containing CBD,” they will “continue to be prohibited from promoting marijuana companies.”
Jesse Burns, the chief marketing officer of the public relations firm Grasslands, told SFGATE that the new rules could make NBA athletes the face of the CBD movement, adding that players have an opportunity to “really leverage this moment of health and wellness” by launching their own CBD brands.
“There’s this general knowledge that CBD is medicine and pain relief and inflammation relief,” Burns said. “The mainstream public is starting to get that.”
The NBA’s previous policy on cannabis included a ban on the use of the drug by all players. Violations of the policy were addressed by entering players into the league’s counseling and treatment program on the first violation. Subsequent violations resulted in a fine of $25,000 for the second violation and a five-game suspension without pay for the third.
The NBA suspended testing players for cannabis as part of its response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2020, league commissioner Adam Silver said that the moratorium would likely become permanent. He added that instead of a mandatory testing program for all players, the league would approach players who appear to be using cannabis problematically or because of dependency and decline to punish players who are “using marijuana casually.”
“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Silver told NBC. “I think society’s views around marijuana have changed to a certain extent.”
The NBA’s end of its prohibition of cannabis for players follows similar action by top U.S. professional sports leagues. In 2019, Major League Baseball (MLB) removed marijuana from its list of banned substances, although the current policy allows players to be disciplined if they appear to be under the influence of cannabis during games, practices or team meetings.
The MLB’s cannabis policy continued to evolve last year when the league announced that teams would be permitted to enter sponsorship deals with cannabis companies. Four months later, the league announced that products from Colorado-based Charlotte’s Web Holdings had been named the “Official CBD of MLB.”
The National Hockey League (NHL) also no longer lists cannabis as a banned substance and players who test positive for the drug don’t face disciplinary action. Players who have “abnormally” high levels of THC detected during testing are referred to a voluntary treatment program.
The National Football League’s collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season relaxed the league’s policy on cannabis, allowing players to use marijuana during the off-season while maintaining prohibition throughout the season of play. The agreement also increased the level of THC that can be present in a player’s drug test before triggering sanctions from the league and ended game suspensions for all positive drug tests, with players facing fines instead.