From Prohibition to Acceptance: The Evolution of Cannabis Consumption in the NBA

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From Prohibition to Acceptance: The Evolution of Cannabis Consumption in the NBA

Cannabis use in the NBA has been a topic that has evolved over time. From strict prohibition policies to a more flexible approach regarding its use for medicinal purposes, the league has undergone significant changes in its stance towards cannabis. As society and laws have evolved, the NBA has also sought to adapt to these changes, seeking to balance the health and well-being of its players with current regulations. Historically, the NBA had fairly strict drug policies that prohibited the use of marijuana and other illegal substances. However, in recent years there has been a change of approach in relation to cannabis, especially with regard to its use for medicinal purposes.

In 2014, the NBA changed its drug policy to reduce penalties for marijuana use. Instead of applying automatic suspensions, the league began evaluating players who test positive for drugs and providing them with a treatment and follow-up plan. Subsequent disciplinary sanctions would depend on the frequency and severity of positive results. Despite this more permissive policy, cannabis use was still considered a violation of NBA rules, and players could be penalized if found in possession of or using marijuana during the season. However, the league has indicated that it is willing to consider additional changes to its approach to cannabis.

Finally this has been accomplished. The NBA has given the green light to the use of marijuana, which will mark a milestone in the history of sports worldwide. Following the example of Major League Baseball and the UFC, the American basketball league has reached an agreement with the Players Association and the NBA commissioner, headed by Adam Silver.

This new collective agreement, which will last approximately seven years and will take effect next season, will allow players in what is considered the best basketball league to consume marijuana without fear of being penalized. From now on, they will be able to use it for recreational purposes without affecting the doping controls carried out so far by the NBA. This decision has been motivated by the pressure exerted by the players in recent seasons, especially by recognized stars such as Kevin Durant. As a result of the negotiations, the NBA will remove the controls starting next season.

Until now, the use of marijuana was prohibited in the league, and testing positive in three tests could result in a sanction of five games without playing. The turning point came after the Orlando bubble, where the Covid-19 pandemic forced players to travel and prevented them from using marijuana. "There the stigma that you couldn't play if you used was broken. It's a moment when you're at peace with your mind, your body, your soul. And you can go out and just play. That's what you want," explained JR. Smith, one of the most recognized players and defenders of this substance in recent years.

The approval of this agreement, pending only the approval of the franchises, marks a historic milestone in the world of sports. More and more modalities, especially in the United States, had considered allowing the consumption of marijuana, and the NBA has become the last to accept it. Conflict at the international level. The NBA's decision undoubtedly affects world sport, since it is the most important competition that allows the consumption of marijuana internationally. Although there are not many that allow the consumption of this substance, in recent years it has become more permissive in certain modalities.
Since 2019, Major League Baseball in the United States has allowed the use of marijuana, and in the UFC, with Conor McGregor as the main ambassador of mixed martial arts, it has not been considered a doping substance since 2021, although its use is prohibited on days of combat. These two examples have led the NBA to relent and allow players to turn to it when they need it. However, one of the main institutions influencing this issue is the World Anti-Doping Agency, which still does not allow the use of marijuana, since cannabis remains on the list of prohibited substances in 2023.

In denying its use in athletes, the World Anti-Doping Agency argues that it fails to meet two of three key criteria: first, it can improve sports performance; secondly, it represents a risk to the athlete's health; and third, it violates the spirit of the sport. In short, the World Anti-Doping Agency has been firmly against the use of marijuana and has not yielded in its positions.
However, the controversy surrounding this issue has been increasing in recent years. The most recent case occurred at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, when athlete Sha'Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana use and was unable to compete in the Japanese capital due to a one-month ban. This generated a debate in the United States about the legalization of marijuana. Although many states in the country already allow its consumption without major problems, such as Oregon, Alaska or California, others still do not. However, the debate has reached the highest levels and has become a political issue.

Despite everything, the World Anti-Doping Agency has gradually reduced its initial requirements and has become more flexible regarding the use of marijuana. The current regulation establishes that THC is prohibited in competition, as long as the amount found in urine does not exceed 150 nanograms per liter. This amount has increased considerably compared to what applied in 2013. Under these rules, the World Anti-Doping Agency would only consider a positive result if a large amount of marijuana has been consumed. In addition, those who do not pass the controls, but can argue that their consumption was removed from the competition and did not affect their performance, will only receive a three-month sanction (one if they agree to undergo a treatment program). Until 2021, the penalties ranged from one to four years.

In 2018 there was also a significant change in the World Anti-Doping Agency legislation. Cannabidol (CBD) was removed from the list of prohibited substances, as it allows athletes to consume the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Therefore, it can be said that the legislation in world sport regarding marijuana is on a downward trend. The sanctions are becoming less severe, indicating that general acceptance is closer. As a result, the approval of marijuana use in major leagues like the NBA opens the door for it to become commonplace.

In addition, the different anti-doping agencies of countries such as the United States or the Netherlands have expressed their disagreement with the World Anti-Doping Agency. Both one and the other have requested a reduction in sanctions or even the exclusion of marijuana from the list of prohibited substances, allowing its free use among athletes. So far, the only sure thing is that with the step taken by the NBA in accepting it as a permitted substance and eliminating anti-doping controls for marijuana, a precedent has been set that other competitions and even sports can take into account to implement it as well. in their areas.

Cannabis use in the NBA has been a subject of constant evolution and change over time. From strict prohibition policies to a more flexible approach towards its use for medicinal purposes, the league has proven adaptable to changes in society and the laws surrounding this substance. In 2014, the NBA changed its drug policy to reduce penalties for marijuana use, focusing on treatment and follow-up for players who test positive for drugs instead of applying automatic suspensions. The NBA recently took a historic step by approving the use of marijuana for its players, marking a milestone in sports worldwide. Following the example of other sports leagues, the decision was made after lengthy negotiations between the Players Association and the NBA commissioner. This change in policy will allow players to consume marijuana for recreational purposes without fear of sanctions and without affecting the doping controls carried out to date.

The acceptance of marijuana in the NBA reflects a growing trend in world sports toward looser marijuana policies. Some other major leagues, such as Major League Baseball and the UFC, had already allowed its use under certain circumstances. Despite this, there are discrepancies at the international level, since the World Anti-Doping Agency continues to maintain marijuana on the list of prohibited substances. The change in the perception and regulation of marijuana use in sports is a subject in constant debate. Although sanctions have been reduced and the allowable limit of THC in urine has been increased, there are still differences of opinion between the various anti-doping agencies. The acceptance of marijuana in the NBA could pave the way for future changes and discussions in other sports and competitions worldwide.

In conclusion, the evolution of cannabis consumption policies in the NBA shows how the league has sought to adapt to changes in society and in the perception of this substance. The recent decision to allow marijuana use by players marks an important step in the sports world, although challenges and debates remain internationally about its widespread acceptance. Over time, more sports organizations may follow the lead of the NBA, thus reflecting an ongoing trend towards more flexible policies around the use of cannabis in sports.


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