Pro basketball players will no longer have to choose between cannabis and their career, thanks to a new professional labor agreement.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) just announced that they have reached a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. Full details on the agreement have yet to be released, but insiders have told the press that the new deal will officially remove cannabis from the association's drug testing policy. The new deal is only tentative, though, and still needs to be ratified by both parties before it becomes official.
“NBA players will no longer be prohibited for marijuana under the new seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement,” said Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium in a social media post. “It’s been removed from the anti-drug testing program, a process that began during 2019-20 season.”
NBA officials first agreed to stop testing players for weed in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic. At the time, the association temporarily stopped THC testing while continuing to test players for performance-enhancing drugs and addictive substances. The following year, the NBA again agreed to suspend pot testing for its 2021-22 season. If approved, the new labor agreement would make these temporary exemptions an official policy that will remain in effect for the next 7 years.
Former NBA players have been fighting for this necessary rule change for years now. Sixteen-year veteran Al Harrington, who now runs his own cannabis company, has long advocated for officials to put an end to prohibition. Other pro ballers like Karl-Anthony Towns have also stepped up to call for officials to at least allow players to use medical marijuana. And former NBA commissioner David Stern, who wrote the original policy that banned players from using cannabis, has even argued that the association should put this tired ban to rest.
The NBA is the last major US sports association to update its antiquated cannabis prohibition policies. Major League Baseball (MLB) actually stopped testing major league players for weed way back in 2006, and eventually expanded this exemption to cover minor league players in 2019. In 2020, the National Football League (NFL) agreed to stop suspending players who test positive for weed – but will still fine players who get high.
Unfortunately, the destigmatization of cannabis use by athletes is pretty much limited to North America. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which oversees drug testing regulations for the Olympics, plans to continue testing all athletes for cannabis. WADA received some serious pushback on these outdated policies after Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the Winter Olympics after testing positive for THC. But despite the science, WADA will still continue to ban players from even using medical cannabis.