Major League Baseball (MLB) players will be allowed to use cannabis starting spring training 2020.
The MLB and Major League Baseball Players Association announced Thursday an overhaul of the league’s drug prevention and treatment program, which includes removing cannabis from the banned substances list and expanding drug testing to include opioids.
Up until now, cannabis was the first drug on the league’s drugs of abuse list.
— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) December 12, 2019
Cannabis use will be treated the same as alcohol use, according to Thursday’s press release, with misbehaviour being handled under the alcohol-related and off-field violent conduct programs. These programs can subject players to mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and discipline if needed.
In drug tests players will now be screened for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, synthetic THC and other drugs of abuse. Players who test positive will be referred to treatment and only those who refuse treatment or the referral will face discipline, the release read.
Players can be asked to provide a blood or urine sample at any time during the championship season, according to the drug prevention and treatment program.
“Players are overwhelmingly in favour of expanding our drug-testing regimen to include opioids, and want to take a leadership role in helping to resolve this national epidemic,” Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA said in the release.
The changes will shift MLB’s approach to drug use from punitive to treatment-based. Emphasis will now be on protecting players from harmful substances, providing confidential care and supporting players who need treatment, according to the release.
There have been 13 Minor League suspensions for “drugs of abuse” in 2019 alone. The list of drugs of abuse is long and the specific drug doesn’t need to be mentioned in the suspension, but marijuana is the most common by far. https://t.co/Zxfpp9edQy
— Sam Dykstra (@SamDykstraMiLB) December 10, 2019
Its a move both parties are hoping will help all reduce prevailing stigmas that continue to harm many people who use drugs.
“It is our hope that this agreement – which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education – will help protect the health and safety of our players,” Dan Halem, MLB deputy commissioner and chief legal officer said. “It is our collective hope that this agreement will help raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of opioid medications and contribute positively to a national conversation about this important topic.”
The MLB will also introduce educational programs for players on practical uses of cannabis and the dangers of using opioids. The programs will be mandatory for all players and club personnel during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and will present evidence-based, health-first approaches, according to the release.
The MLB is not the first sports group to thaw its policy towards cannabis. In October, USA Triathlon announced a partnership with Pure Spectrum CBD to help athletes train.
The National Football League and National Basketball Association do not currently allow cannabis use.