For the second year in a row, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has agreed not to randomly test players for cannabis use.
Last March, the NBA was forced to put its regular playing season on hold as the pandemic began to spread throughout the country. In June, the association announced that it was moving ahead with a “restart bubble” season, allowing 20 teams to quarantine at Disney World in Florida and play a shortened version of their regular season. And as part of this major revamp, the NBA also agreed to suspend random pot tests during this bubble season.
Although this surprise decision only applied to last year's unique season, NBA officials have wisely decided to continue that policy this year. Last week, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) sent memos to its players, notifying them that weed testing would also be off the table for the 2021-22 season.
“We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” said NBA spokesperson Mike Bass in a press release.
Last winter, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suggested that these temporary cannabis policy changes may soon become permanent. “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 said in an interview last December, according to Marijuana Moment. “I think society’s views around marijuana [have] changed to a certain extent.”
NBPA head Michele Roberts, who is also a board member of cannabis industry giant Cresco Labs, has predicted that a permanent policy change could be in the cards as soon as next year. The association will continue to randomly test players for performance-enhancing drugs as well as “drugs of abuse” like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, however.
The NBA's shift on its cannabis testing policies is indicative of a major paradigm shift in the world of professional sports. Last year, the NFL agreed to stop suspending players over cannabis use, and will now only test for weed during the two-week training period, instead of requiring random testing over the course of four months. MLB officials stopped testing players for weed in 2019, but pro baseball players are still barred from getting high during games or from signing sponsorship contracts with weed businesses.
This June, the Nevada State Athletic Commission ended its ban on THC use for all professional fighters in the state, and the UFC removed all restrictions against in-training cannabis use in January. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is even considering relaxing its extreme anti-cannabis policies after Sha'Carri Richardson was infamously banned from participating in the Olympics just for smoking a joint.