Currently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) prohibits all forms of cannabis use by players, even when the player is in a state where cannabis is legal, and even when the use is medical in nature. There are no exceptions.
That policy is extremely out of touch in 2018. As of the posting of this article 9 states have approved measures to legalize cannabis for adult use, in addition to Washington D.C. More than three times as many states have legalized cannabis for medical use (in addition to Washington D.C.). More states are likely to legalize cannabis in the near future, as is the entire country of Canada.
Gallup’s most recent poll found that a record level of Americans now support legalizing cannabis for adult use (64%). A different poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 94% of Americans support allowing people to use cannabis for medical purposes. Yet, despite all of that, the NBA still clings to cannabis prohibition.
When the NBA suspends players for using cannabis, they are not only harming the players and their teams, they are also harming the league itself. Ultimately the NBA’s main product is its players. When players are not on the court, the league’s overall product suffers. Fans want to see their team’s players on the court, and the NBA should want to as well.
Sometimes taking a player off the court makes sense, such as when a player is hurt or dealing with a personal matter. Other times taking a player off the court, such as for valid disciplinary reasons, is warranted. However, taking a player off the court simply because they have THC metabolites in their urine is ludicrous.
The NBA has a current threshold of just 15 ng/mL. If a player crosses that threshold they are penalized, which was the case recently with Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha. Both players were suspended for 5 games after violating the league’s anti-cannabis policy.
To put the 15 ng/mL threshold into perspective, one study found that someone could fail a drug test for just simply being around other people that were consuming cannabis. The study found that one participant tested at over 50 ng/mL and several participants tested at over 20 ng/mL due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure.
NBA players could theoretically be in violation of the league’s policy when they haven’t even personally consumed cannabis, especially considering that cannabis can stay in a person’s system for as long as 100 days. Olympic athletes are held to a standard that is ten times more lenient.
The Uncle Cliffy team does not know the circumstances with these players, but the fact that it’s even a possibility that they could have been suspended due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure highlights how ridiculous the NBA’s current cannabis policy is. NBA cannabis policies should be based on science and compassion, and not on outdated political views.
NBA league officials need to get on the right side of history, and NBA players need to refuse to settle for anything less. The league’s current cannabis policy is harmful to players, to their families who also have to deal with stigma, to their teams, and to the league itself. It’s so strict that it could result in players being suspended when they have not even consumed cannabis.
Cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that is widely embraced by the NBA. If the NBA can embrace alcohol, then players should be able to consume a plant that is exponentially safer. To say otherwise defies logical reasoning. The NBA needs to do what is right and free the plant!