Current and retired professional athletes have been speaking out against cannabis prohibition in sports at an increasing rate.
Just as cannabis prohibition has ruined countless lives outside of professional sports, so too has cannabis prohibition ruined the lives and careers of numerous professional athletes.
Support for cannabis legalization in society is at its highest level ever, and sports cannabis advocates are hopeful that the increasing momentum will translate to increased momentum for reform in pro sports.
Cannabis prohibition is a racist public policy, proven by its disproportionate impact on People of Color.
When professional sports leagues penalize athletes for getting caught with cannabis away from the team they perpetuate institutional racism, which is obviously unacceptable.
The Green Flower team is hopeful that professional sports leagues will get on the right side of history sooner rather than later.
Why do professional sports leagues prohibit cannabis use by players?
The most common reasons cited as justification for continued cannabis prohibition in professional sports include:
- That it is federally illegal.
- That cannabis is bad for athletes.
- That there hasn’t been enough research.
- It will send the wrong message to fans.
All four of those talking points are very easy to refute and by no means justify keeping cannabis prohibition in place in professional sports.
Yes, cannabis is federally illegal, but it’s not federally illegal to simply have THC in a person’s system which is what players are usually penalized for.
What is the testing threshold for THC in professional sports leagues?
Professional athletes must submit to random drug testing in leagues that prohibit cannabis. Below are the THC thresholds of the major sports leagues:
- National Basketball Association (NBA) – 15 ng/mL
- National Football League (NFL) – 35 ng/mL
- Major League Baseball (MLB) – 50 ng/mL
To put these thresholds into perspective Olympic athletes are held to a standard of 150 ng/mL.
The National Hockey League (NHL) does not include cannabis on its banned substances list.
A study from 2015 found that a person could test over the 50 ng/mL threshold by just being exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke. So why are professional sports leagues’ standards so stringent?
What will it take to legalize cannabis in all professional sports leagues?
Cannabis prohibition can be ended in professional sports leagues via one of two ways. The first is for players to successfully push for it during collective bargaining.
The second and much faster way is if the leagues decided to end cannabis prohibition on their own.
Obviously, the second route is much more desirable. The burden should not be on the players to push for cannabis reform.
League officials and team owners should step up and do the right thing on their own. A player’s health and livelihood should not be a bargaining chip in negotiations with players.
If you are a sports fan contact the leadership of your favorite sports team and league and demand an end to cannabis prohibition.
With Canada passing legalization and so many states passing medical and/or adult-use legalization measures, it’s beyond time for all professional sports leagues to get on the right side of history.