The NBA reached an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association to temporarily stop randomly testing players for marijuana use during the 2020-21 season.
“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,” league spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement, “And focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse.”
Marijuana will remain on the NBA’s banned substances list. Players who have previously tested positive or given the league reason to suspect use can still be tested for the drug and penalized. However, the league signaled a potential shift in philosophy last summer, when it suspended random marijuana testing for the 22 teams in the Orlando Bubble.
According to the New York Times, NBA players have been required to submit to four random drug tests per season. If a player tested positive for marijuana once, he was required to enter the NBA’s drug program. Twice, he would be fined $25,000 and a third time would result in a five-game suspension.
The NBA isn’t the first league to begin rolling back cannabis restrictions. MLB removed marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” list in December 2019 and instead shifted to a more aggressive stance on opioids. In the new CBA between the NFL and its players association, the threshold for determining a positive test quadrupled, testing was limited to training camp and punishments were removed. The NHL still requires random drug tests but doesn’t punish players for testing positive.
While the NBA could return to its normal testing practices for the 2021-22 season, players have one less thing to worry about as basketball returns amid the pandemic.