Cannabis is currently prohibited in the National Basketball Association (NBA). NBA players are subjected to four random drug tests per year, and if they fail any of them, they are penalized. The threshold for the NBA’s cannabis test is very strict – a mere 15 ng/mL of THC metabolites. To put that into perspective, Olympic athletes are held to a standard of 150 ng/mL, a whopping ten times the limit of the NBA.
The NBA’s cannabis testing policy has zero exceptions. All cannabis use is prohibited, even when the use is for medical purposes, and even when the use occurs in a state where adult-use is legal. A big push has been underway in recent years, led by retired 18-year NBA veteran Cliff Robinson, to get the NBA to change its cannabis policy and get the league on the right side of history.
Commissioner Adam Silver has historically made it clear that the league will keep the status quo in place for the foreseeable future. For instance in 2014 Mr. Silver stated that the league was ‘more concerned about HGH‘ than cannabis, but that the league felt strongly that cannabis would affect players’ performance on the court. No evidence was provided to back up the league’s anti-cannabis stance.
It is quite possible that no valid evidence is out there to point to in order to bolster the claim that cannabis is bad for NBA players. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of evidence that cannabis can help NBA players who suffer from various health conditions and/or injuries. Cannabis is safer than pharmaceutical drugs, and in many cases, more effective.
Despite the numerous valid reasons for ending cannabis prohibition in the NBA, and the lack of solid reasons for keeping prohibition in place, Adam Silver recently doubled down in favor of continued cannabis prohibition in an interview with Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum. Per NBA.com:
“I don’t see the need for any changes right now. It’s legal in certain states, but as you know, our players are constantly traveling and it might be a bit of a trap to say we’re going to legalize it in these states but no, it’s illegal in other states and have players get in a position where they’re traveling with marijuana and getting in trouble.”
The Uncle Cliffy team agrees that a policy that allows use in some instances but not others would be confusing for players. However, we wholeheartedly disagree that the potential for confusion justifies keeping the current policy in place. The current policy lacks compassion for players. The current policy does not allow players to use cannabis for medical purposes, no matter how much the medicine helps the player. It also doesn’t recognize the fact that adults can now legally consume cannabis in eight states and Washington D.C. for recreational purposes.
Every NBA team is located in a state that has at least passed CBD-specific legislation, which is a more progressive approach than the league’s current policy. Polling shows that fans support allowing players to use cannabis. Cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol, a substance that the NBA widely embraces. Why is the NBA clinging to such a failed, harmful policy?
“It was frustrating and disheartening to hear that Commissioner Silver and the NBA have no plans to change the league’s outdated policy. What is the risk in allowing players to make the safer choice? Prohibition is harming players and the teams that they play on by keeping players off the court. Taking players off the court ultimately harms the league itself. Players should only be penalized when it’s justified. Who are the players harming when they use cannabis? With cannabis being safer than alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs, the NBA’s continued prohibition of cannabis is obviously hypocritical and unacceptable. It’s time for a more sensible approach.” said Cliff Robinson.