MLB to Stop Drug Testing Minor League Players for Cannabis

Players will still have to be tested for opiates and other illicit drugs.

MLB to stop testing minor league players for cannabis iStock / Artur Didyk

The MLB is making major changes in their player drug policy when it comes to how the organization treats cannabis use.

The MLB recently announced that the professional baseball league intends to stop drug testing minor league players for cannabis. Continued negotiations between the MLB and the MLBPA are underway to put an end to cannabis drug testing throughout the league, however, nothing has been officially finalized yet.

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This exciting news could be a real game-changer for professional baseball players who wish to use cannabis medically but were prevented from doing so by MLB policy, regardless of whether the state they resided in had legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use.

According to the league’s current policy, major league baseball players are not tested for cannabis, whereas the first time that minor league players test positive for marijuana they risk being suspended for a period of 25 games. If a player is caught a second time, the penalty increases to a 50-game suspension; minor league players caught for the third time testing positive for cannabis are suspended for 100 games, and face a lifetime ban from the league for any additional use of cannabis.

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Many athletes use cannabis to treat the pain and inflammation caused by intense physical training. One of the first studies on athletes and cannabis, published in June of this year in the journal PLoS One, found that athletes were more likely to use cannabis for chronic pain and anxiety. Many of the most popular professional sports organizations, such as the NFL, have strict bans on cannabis use and implement harsh penalties for anyone who tests positive for marijuana.

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Under the new drug policy, cannabis would be removed from the banned substances list, however, players would still be required to undergo routine testing for opioids. Moreover, those who do test positive for illicit drugs will now be able to seek proper drug rehabilitation treatment, rather than face immediate suspension.

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A reporter for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal, tweeted last week, “As part of a new agreement on opioids being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, MLB will remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers, sources tell The Athletic. Major leaguers have not been subject to testing for marijuana.”

Multiple sources also reported that a spokesperson for the MLBPA confirmed that negotiations to end cannabis drug testing are ongoing.

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In breaking news, on Thursday this week, MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) tweeted, “Today, @MLB and the @MLB_Players jointly announced significant changes to the Drug of Abuse provisions of the joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.”

On their website, the MLB writes, “Natural cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD, and Marijuana) will be removed from the Program’s list of Drugs of Abuse. Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’ Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids.”

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MLB to Stop Drug Testing Minor League Players for Cannabis was last modified: by