All but just a handful of states in the U.S. have decriminalized some form of marijuana. On Wednesday, one of its top sports leagues also joined the movement.
The National Basketball League announced it would not subject its 530 players to random drug tests for cannabis use this season, after coming to the decision with its players union.
“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,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a release.
The league will continue to test players for performance-enhancing substances, such as human growth hormone and artificial testosterone, along with illicit street drugs like cocaine, opiates and methamphetamine. The NBA bans 250 substances in total and testing positive for any of them results in an automatic ban.
The league may also continue to discipline players for cannabis-related offenses stemming from violation of civil and criminal laws. In June, police at a Texas airport arrested and charged former Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso with a misdemeanor after finding plant residue in Caruso’s carry-on bag, according to ESPN.
In November 2020, Ohio police detained former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kevin Porter Jr. after finding the plant in his possession during an arrest for illegally possessing a firearm. Neither Caruso nor Porter were suspended.
The NBA’s policy is not the first of its kind in the four major U.S. sports leagues to technically allow for cannabis use. The National Football League permits its players to use the plant during the offseason, while Major League Baseball has a loose agreement to look the other way, as long as players don’t show up intoxicated to practices and games.
The National Hockey League was the first league to move toward relaxed cannabis consumption policies for players back in 2018. All of its 31 franchises now play in states or territories where some form of the plant is legalized.
But players using cannabis in other U.S. professional sports leagues and associations may not be so lucky.
In July, U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was left off the country’s Olympic roster after a positive THC test. Richardson, 21, is widely regarded as one of the fastest female sprinters in the world, but lost her shot at competing in the 100-meter dash in Tokyo for medicating with the plant to mitigate symptoms of depression in response to her mother’s recent death.