It’s no secret that some pro athletes use marijuana. From J.R. Smith to Ricky Williams, there are plenty of players from both the NBA and the NFL who have been quite open about using their drug usage. However, when it comes to testing policies and punishments, the two leagues handle things differently.
And as more states change their marijuana laws, the NBA continues to adapt to the times. In fact, the league’s marijuana testing policy just went up in smoke.
The NFL dishes out serious drug-related punishments
When it comes to drug testing and punishments, the NBA and NFL differ greatly. To put it bluntly: Professional football players must deal with much stricter measures.
Since Roger Goodell took over as commissioner, many NFL players have gotten suspended for drug-related issues. Josh Gordon recently got reinstated after serving his fifth suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs and substance abuse policy. The current Seattle Seahawks wide receiver quickly became a star with the Cleveland Browns before his NFL career got sidetracked because of substance abuse.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has also missed ample time due to drug-related suspensions. The 28-year-old had to sit out the 2017 and 2019 seasons. Gregory has only played 33 games since getting drafted 60th overall in 2015.
However, NFL players did get a break with the new collective bargaining agreement. According to ESPN, the new CBA eliminates suspensions for positive marijuana tests. In addition, it limits the testing period to the first two weeks of training camp and raises the threshold for a positive test.
Overall, though, the NFL (aka Goodell) has a reputation for coming down hard on players for drug policy violations.
The NBA has shown a willingness to adapt
NBA players rarely get suspended for entire seasons. However, they still get punished for failing drug tests just like NFL players do. In fact, veteran shooting guard Tyreke Evans earned a two-year suspension back in May 2019 for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
Still, Adam Silver has shown a willingness to work with the players to adapt to the times.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NBA to play the rest of the season in the bubble in Orlando. Players no longer could see their families, which surely put more stress on everyone’s shoulders.
So during an unprecedented time, the NBA and NBPA agreed to an unprecedented measure. On June 8, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the two sides agreed to suspend testing for recreational drugs for the remainder of the season.
Obviously, that meant players could use marijuana without punishment during their time in the bubble. And on Friday, NBA players got a major update about the league’s marijuana testing policy for the upcoming season.
The league’s marijuana testing policy just went up in smoke
After putting recreational drug testing on pause in the bubble, the NBA faced a big decision about how it will handle that issue for the 2020-21 season.
On Friday, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported via Twitter that the NBA has suspended random marijuana testing for the upcoming season. He followed up with a statement from NBA spokesperson Mike Bass.
“Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse.”Mike Bass, NBA spokesperson
The 2020-21 season has been cut down from 82 to 72 games and will begin on Dec. 22.
And now, NBA players officially don’t have to worry about a marijuana testing policy as they return to action later this month.