NBA Backs Down on Its Initial Promise to Allow Players to Promote Weed Brands
The league will still end THC testing for players, at least, and will also allow them to invest in legal weed companies.
Published on May 4, 2023

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has backed down on its promise to allow players to actively promote cannabis brands, but will still end THC testing and let players invest in the weed industry.

Last month, the press leaked some promising details about a proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). Early reports, based on an initial draft of the agreement, suggested that the league would stop testing players for THC and even allow them to promote and invest in legal cannabis businesses

This week, the NBA released the final version of its bargaining agreement, and the details aren't quite as game-changing as that first draft suggested. The official rules will actually continue to prohibit all players from promoting marijuana companies, contrary to the initial reports. So current players won’t be able to slap their names on cannabis brands, but they will at least be allowed to promote companies that create federally-legal CBD products.

All of the other cannabis-related details of the earlier report seem to be on point, though. The NBA will now let players invest in legal cannabis businesses, with some restrictions. SFGATE reports that ball players will be able to hold a “passive, non-controlling interest” in companies that produce marijuana products but will still be blocked from actively running pot businesses. Players can also invest in CBD companies, either actively or passively, without restrictions.

The new CBA will also put an end to the NBA's longstanding cannabis testing policies. The deal officially removes marijuana from the league's Prohibited Substances List. Players will still have to take random drug tests because the NBA still bans performance-enhancing and illegal drugs, but officials will no longer be able to discipline or suspend players that test positive for THC. 

Ballers will now be able to smoke as much as they want while off the clock, but can still get into trouble if they show up to a game reeking of bud. The new CBA says that any “team that has reason to believe one of its players is under the influence of marijuana while engaged in NBA or team-related activities or has a dependency issue involving marijuana, may refer the player to a treatment program,” Marijuana Moment reports.

The NBA initially dropped its cannabis testing policies back in 2020 during the pandemic. The following year, officials agreed to continue suspending THC tests, and the temporary ban was extended for the 2021-22 season. The new collective bargaining agreement, which will take effect on July 1st of this year, will make the THC testing exemption an official policy that will remain in effect for the next seven years.

Despite many pro basketball players' outspoken love for the leaf, the NBA was actually the last major US sports association to stop busting players for weed. Major League Baseball (MLB) stopped testing major league players for weed in 2006 and stopped testing minor league players in 2019. The National Football League (NFL) agreed to stop suspending players over positive THC tests in 2020, but will still fine players who get high.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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