Most professional sports leagues prohibit cannabis use, even when the use is occurring in a state that has legalized cannabis for adult use, and even when the use is medical in nature. One exception would be the National Hockey League which does not include cannabis on its list of banned substances. For the leagues that do prohibit cannabis, each has its own threshold that determines whether or not an athlete has failed the drug test due to cannabis use.
Professional sports leagues are specifically looking for the amount of THC metabolites in an athlete’s bodily fluid (usually urine, but sometimes blood). The National Football League (NFL) sets a threshold of 35 ng/mL. The National Basketball Association (NBA) sets its threshold at only 15 ng/mL. Major League Baseball has the highest threshold of the three major sports leagues, setting the threshold at 50 ng/mL. The NFL had previously set its threshold at 35 ng/mL but increased it in recent years. The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) is set to increase its THC metabolite threshold starting in October. Per an article written by an anonymous golfer for Golf Digest:
Under the new policy, the amount of marijuana that can be in my system is being raised by a factor of 10. The threshold for failing a test was 15 nanograms but will now be 150 nanograms.
The new policy is definitely an improvement compared to the PGA’s previous policy. To put things into perspective, PGA golfers will now be held to the same THC metabolite threshold as Olympic athletes. Having a policy that is three times as lenient as Major League Baseball, over four times better than the NFL, and ten times better than the NBA league is commendable. However, the PGA policy change does not go far enough in the opinion of the Uncle Cliffy team.
Anything short of a complete end to cannabis consumption prohibition for adults over 21 years old, including professional golfers, is ultimately unacceptable. The new PGA policy does not provide for any exceptions for medical cannabis use. The new policy also doesn’t account for the fact that cannabis is legal for adult use in 8 states now, as well as in our nation’s capital. A large number of PGA tour events are scheduled in legal cannabis states like California and Nevada. If golfers can legally consume in those states, or their home states (if they have legalized), why should they be penalized by the PGA?
At the same time that the PGA has been testing and penalizing golfers for using cannabis, they have been embracing alcohol. Cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol. How does it make any sense to continue to penalize players for consuming a plant that is 114 safer than a product (alcohol) that the PGA currently promotes for profit? It doesn’t. The PGA’s ‘new and improved’ cannabis testing policy is still incredibly hypocritical, especially when taking into account cannabis’ proven medical benefits. The Uncle Cliffy team commends the PGA on improving its cannabis policy, but hopefully it serves as more of a step in the right direction versus being considered a permanent fix.