NBA Suspends Cannabis Testing for 2020-21 Season

Will the NBA permanently remove cannabis from its banned substance list? It's complicated.
Will the NBA permanently remove cannabis from its banned substance list? It's complicated. / Image by tookapic from Pixabay

The National Basketball Association (NBA) will not test players for cannabis during the upcoming 2020-21 season.

The league initially suspended cannabis testing during the previous season’s restart, where players were confined to a ‘bubble’ at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Cannabis is already quite popular among NBA players – could this be a foreshadowing of more lax cannabis policies in the near future?

The NBA’s Stance on Cannabis

It’s one of the league’s worst kept secrets. Apparently, 75-80 percent of its players already use cannabis.

A lot of current players turn to cannabis to help them with stress or even as an athletic recovery aid.

Meanwhile, a lot of retired players have revealed their cannabis stories as well as opened cannabis businesses.

Some have even come out and admitted to playing games while they were high.

Even the late former Commissioner David Stern shifted his views in favor of cannabis.

The NBA has considered a permanent stoppage of cannabis testing for players, but Commissioner Adam Silver is concerned about the potential impact on athletic performance and children who follow the league.

During a May 2019 interview with Chris Haynes for Yahoo Sports, Silver addressed his stance on the cannabis, calling it a “complicated issue.”

In the interview, Silver noted that he didn’t really care about players using cannabis during the summer or even consuming a bit to unwind during the evening.

“On the other hand, there’s also guys in the league who are smoking a lot of pot. And then the question is, why are you smoking a lot of pot? And that’s where mental wellness comes in. Because I’ve also talked directly to players who say, ‘I’m smoking a lot of pot, because I have a lot of anxiety. And I’m struggling.’”

For Silver, it’s the same issue with alcohol. “Alcohol is perfectly legal, and obviously we don’t have a ban against alcohol. We don’t test against alcohol, unless we have a reason to believe there’s a problem. But we don’t want guys to drink a lot, either. And I think if we hear that a guy is drinking a lot – whether it’s the players association, the team or the league – we’re approaching that guy and saying, ‘Can we help you?’”

Here's the full 2019 interview with Chris Haynes and Commissioner Adam Silver:

What Would It Mean for the NBA to Accept Cannabis?

While the league already has one foot in the door with the current suspension of cannabis testing, officially removing it from the banned substances list would be a monumental jump forward for cannabis progress.

Not only would such a policy change go a long way in de-stigmatizing cannabis in society, but it could also potentially help players mentally and physically – if used with guidance.

Cannabis has so many applications relevant to athletes: depression, anxiety, pain, inflammation – even healing bone fractures.

If I were in charge of a professional sports team, you can guarantee I would have a cannabis advisor on the payroll to work with medical staff and players.

Why not?

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