Law regulation

Law regulation

The NBA Suspends Cannabis Testing

The NBA Suspends Cannabis Testing

November 02, 2021

The National Basketball Association (NBA) recently announced a shift in the league's cannabis testing policy that's likely to have players breathing – or perhaps exhaling? –  a lot easier. 

The big news? The league is continuing its cannabis testing suspension through the 2021-2022 NBA season. 

The NBA first suspended cannabis testing during the 2020 pandemic-induced "playoffs bubble." And in the wake of this latest extension, many sports analysts are predicting cannabis testing will be permanently axed when the players association (the NBA players union) negotiates their next collective bargaining agreement (in the summer of 2024).

A very timely move on the NBA's part, considering what's been happening in the broader sports world. Because seriously, who could forget when world-class sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was disqualified from this year's Tokyo Summer Olympics after she tested positive for cannabis?

Testing For "Performance Enhancing" Drugs

Olympic athletes are primarily tested for "performance-enhancing drugs." But this testing is intended to police the use of steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), and other pharmaceuticals designed to increase muscle mass and shorten injury recovery times.

And there's a history of high-profile abuse of these substances by major athletes. Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who briefly held the title "fastest man alive," was famously stripped of his 1988 Olympic Gold Medals for the 100-meter dash after testing positive for steroid use. 

And more recently, cycling legend Lance Armstrong – who vehemently denied "doping" for decades was stripped of his Tour de France bicycle race wins after it was proven he had in fact used steroids throughout his cycling career.

Is Cannabis Testing Still Legitimate in Organized Sports?

The Sha'Carri Richardson incident, however, calls into question the legitimacy of testing athletes for cannabis. In Richardson's case, cannabis was noted in her system because Olympic testing protocols screen for "illegal drugs," which technically includes cannabis. Well, sort of.

Cannabis law is continually evolving. And dozens of counties around the globe have legalized cannabis. Making Richardson's disqualification more than a little suspect.

The NBA is Aiming to Be on The Right Side of History

Many current and former NBA players have voiced their feelings that cannabis is far better than opioids and other psychoactive pharmaceuticals for pain relief, anxiety and stress management, and depression. All of which are significant issues countless NBA players have, and continue, to struggle with.

As such, it would be fantastic news for players if the NBA banishes its cannabis prohibition once and for all. 

Former NBA Players Are Becoming Players In The Cannabis Industry

Not only are retired players lending their voices in support of cannabis reform, but they're also taking active roles in the industry. 

Former NBA player Al Harrington launched his own cannabis company, Viola. And NBA legend Allen Iverson has partnered with Harrington, releasing his cannabis strain, '96 (named for the year Iverson was drafted).

Other notable retired players, including Chris Webber, Gary Payton, Stephen Jackson, and Shawn Kemp have all lobby for the NBA to end its cannabis ban. 

Weber, in particular, is developing cannabis-related industries in his hometown of Detroit. And Stephen Jackson is the co-host of the cannabis advocacy podcast, All The Smoke.

These factors clearly indicate the tide is turning in favor of cannabis within the NBA's broader landscape. And this may be the first of many dominos to fall in the professional sports realm. At least the gang here at hopes so!

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