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Marijuana is now legal in Canada, so what does it mean for NHL, NBA, MLB? Five things to know

Legalization Posted Oct 23 2018

Recreational cannabis has been available in several states across the U.S. for a few years now, but with Canada legalizing adult use nationwide it does open the discussion wider about some professional sports teams. Are leagues going to change testing or banned substance policy alongside cannabis legalization? 9 teams in North American pro sports leagues are now in cities with legal adult use cannabis and the NHL, NBA, and MLB will be taking notice. All three leagues seem to have a somewhat lax take on cannabis, despite specific penalties under certain circumstances. 

The NHL's primary stance is education. While cannabis remains on the list of banned substances the NHL has continued to let their players find the medicine and therapies that work best for them but to exercise caution and stay up to date on research. Only a large amount of cannabis found in a player's system will trigger any rehabilitation consequence while small dose positives are not disciplined and instead are only used as data to better understand testing. 

The NBA however does have a policy to discipline players when found to be using cannabis, however the testing policy allows players to be tested only 4 times per year that they are aware about beforehand. Anecdotal reports say around 85% of NBA players consume cannabis, but the NBA doesn't seem concerned enough to try and catch players. If tested positive once, a substance abuse course must be completed, twice, a $25,000 fine is given, three times, suspended for 5 games, and each additional instance adds 5 more game suspensions. While the discipline isn't to be ignored, the fine isn't much for pro players and the tests are easy to prepare for.

All in all, it's unlikely that we'll see sweeping changes from any of these leagues. All three of them already have a "don't ask don't tell" policy of sorts in regards to marijuana use. However, the league that will theoretically be the most impacted with Canada's legalization is the NHL. With seven professional teams having their cities legalize marijuana use, the data for positive tests might end up looking a little different. With that being said, the league wasn't doing much to deter them in the first place


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