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Baseball Players Can Smoke Marijuana But Can’t Be Sponsored By Cannabis Companies, MLB Says

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With spring training now in full swing, Major League Baseball is further clarifying its stance on marijuana. Players can now consume cannabis without risk of discipline, the league explained in a new memo, but they can’t show up to work under the influence and—at least for now—are barred from entering into commercial arrangements with companies in the marijuana industry.

The league also says it’s also teaming with product-testing organization NSF International to analyze and certify legal, contaminant-free CBD products in order to allow teams to store them on club premises.

The announcements came in a new memorandum from MLB Deputy Commissioner Daniel R. Halem. Dated February 19, it’s an update to the MLB’s decision late last year to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances.

Before the rule change, players who tested positive for THC were referred to mandatory treatment, and failure to comply carried a fine of up to $35,000. That penalty is now gone.

But despite the relaxed marijuana rules, the league says in the new memo, which was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, that key restrictions remain on how players and teams may interact with legal cannabis. “While natural cannabinoids will no longer be considered Prohibited Substances under MLB’s Drug Programs,” the memo says, “there are still restrictions on, and risks associated with, the use, possession and distribution of marijuana and other natural cannabinoids.”

For one thing, players will still be subject to sanctions if they show up to work high. “If players or Club personnel appear under the influence of marijuana or any other cannabinoid during any of the Club’s game’s practices, workouts, meetings or otherwise during the course and within the scope of their employment,” the memo says, “they will be referred to a mandatory evaluation under the applicable cannabinoid and alcohol treatment program.”

Team doctors are also forbidden from recommending medical cannabis or providing any cannabinoid products to players, and teams may not store such products on club premises.

“Because Clubs are required to comply with all DEA regulations that apply to Controlled Substances, Club medical personnel are prohibited from prescribing, dispensing or recommending the use of marijuana or any other cannabinoid to any player or Club personnel,” the document, which Marijuana Moment has independently reviewed, says.

That restriction could eventually change, at least when it comes to CBD: MLB and its players union are working with NSF International, a product-testing organization, “to develop an independent testing and certification process for these products,” aimed at ensuring they are legally compliant and free of contaminants. “MLB will continue to monitor and provide updates as certain hemp-based CBD products are tested and verified by NSF International,” the memo says.

Players can also be “subject to discipline” by their team or the MLB “for engaging in certain cannabinoid-related conduct, including violations of federal, state or local laws,” the memo says, such as by distributing marijuana or driving under the influence.

Players also can’t cash in on the green rush—at least not yet. Despite the mad dash by some legal marijuana companies to secure celebrity spokespeople, the league says its players may not invest in or be sponsored by the legal cannabis industry.

MLB says it intends to release a separate bulletin “regarding investments in, and commercial arrangements with, companies that produce, market, sell and/or distribute natural cannabinoids.” But “until such guidance is issued, any such investments or commercial arrangements are still considered to be prohibited in accordance with current practices,” Halem wrote.

The new policies stem from negotiations last year between the MLB and its players union. Both parties agreed to approach the league’s drug policy with an emphasis on treatment rather than penalties. Players who test positive for opioids or cocaine, for example, will be penalized only if they refuse treatment.

A number of athletic governance bodies have recently relaxed rules around cannabinoids as laws change and medical applications become more widely accepted. The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), for example, said in 2017 that athletes can use CBD, and it also recently increased its allowable limit on THC metabolites.

Meanwhile, the National Football League is in negotiations with players about how to adjust its own marijuana rules. A proposed collective bargaining agreement from the NFL Players Association aims to recast drug policy “to increase emphasis on clinical care over punishment.” Players would no longer be suspended for testing positive for THC, and annual testing would be limited to the first two weeks of training camp. The league’s THC testing limit would be raised from 35 to 150 nanograms, bringing the limit in line with WADA standards.

In an effort to reduce drug-related harms, however, the plan would increase penalties for driving under the influence, imposing a three-game suspension.

A vote on the NFL’s new policy is expected in coming weeks.

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Sierra Club Gives Tips On Using Marijuana In An Environmentally Friendly Way

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A leading environmental conservationist group wants to help you sustainably and safely consume marijuana.

The Sierra Club, which has not historically weighed in on cannabis issues, released a guide last week that makes a series of recommendations about how to source marijuana in a way that’s healthy and good for the environment.

They said that, absent regulations from federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers are left in the dark when it comes to best practices. And the 129-year-old environmental nonprofit is here to help.

“The majority of Americans now live in states where they can legally consume medicinal or recreational cannabis,” the new guide published this month in the Sierra Club’s print magazine says. “As more ways to lawfully partake become available, the choices can be confusing.”

The article lists five tips for marijuana enthusiasts during a time when more and more state-legal markets are coming online.

Buy organic—or “organic-ish.” Because marijuana remains federally illegal, there isn’t an opportunity for cannabis companies to obtain a standard organic certification. But consumers should look for a Clean Green or Sun+Earth label, as these third-party organizations also maintain strong standards and help businesses gain formal certification.

Buy outdoor-grown marijuana. The carbon footprint for indoor-cultivated cannabis can be significant, as the process relies heavily on electronic lighting. That’s not the case for outdoor-grown flower. Sierra Club said “the production of one kilogram of indoor-grown cannabis results in 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of driving the United States from coast to coast 11 times.”

Familiarize yourself with the marijuana producer. The illicit market doesn’t disappear when a state launches a legal cannabis market. And because illicit sellers are unregulated, they may be using harmful pesticides, or cultivating their products on public lands in ways that can hurt surrounding wildlife. That said, a 2019 study did find that illegal cultivation in national forests declined post-legalization in Oregon and Washington State.

The guide also notes that certain states encourage cannabis companies to enroll in energy-saving programs. Colorado has taken it a step further, with the governor announcing last year that the state was rolling out pilot programs to promote sustainability cooperation between the cannabis and alcohol markets by using carbon dioxide from the brewing process to stimulate marijuana plant growth.

Look for a Certificate of Analysis. That’s easier said than done in states where marijuana remains prohibited, but for consumers in legal states, it’s an important component, as it means the products have been tested for heavy metals, mold and other potentially dangerous substances.

Be wary of packaging. As in other industries, plastic and packaging is an environmental problem. Seeking out products with low-waste packages can help mitigate that issue, Sierra Club said. For example, there are some companies that use recycled plastics recovered from the ocean. Alternatively, consumers could try to find hemp-based packaging.

The guide also offers tips for specific types of cannabis products.

For example, when it comes to edibles, consumers should seek out vegan goodies. Beyond arguments that a plant-based diet represents a humane alternative, it’s also the case that animal agriculture is overly polluting and resource intensive.

For smoking, the group says that glass pipes are “inherently earth-friendlier” than rolling papers, as they cut down on waste and production. The environmentally conscious cannabis consumer should also buy flowers in jars instead of as single pre-rolls, “to reduce throwaway packaging.”

As far as vaping goes, Sierra Club recommends spending your money with companies that offer recycling programs for used cartridges.

Meanwhile, activists in Montana are also seeing a link between environmentalism and marijuana. A voter-approved initiative to legalize cannabis in the state calls for a significant amount of tax revenue from marijuana sales to be allocated to conservation programs.

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Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash.

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Killer Mike Challenges Joe Biden To Adopt Bernie Sanders’s Marijuana Legalization Plan

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Rapper and activist Killer Mike is challenging President-elect Joe Biden to take a note from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and use executive authority to broadly reform federal marijuana laws as soon as he takes office.

In an interview with TMZ that was released on Wednesday, the artist stressed the need to legalize cannabis and do it in a way that lifts up communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. He said Biden can help facilitate that by federally descheduling marijuana through executive action on day one—a proposal Sanders pitched during his presidential run.

“I want to challenge Joe Biden to do what Bernie Sanders did,” Killer Mike, who served as a campaign surrogate for the senator, said. “He would have descheduled it the first day of his presidency. You have the power of that pen to invoke things like gun laws. You should have the power of that pen to take it off the Schedule I list so that, if nothing else, it is decriminalized to the point that kids’ lives aren’t being ruined today.”

But Biden has not indicated that marijuana reform would be an immediate priority for his administration. In fact, he remains opposed to adult-use legalization despite supermajority support within his party.

The president-elect has only gone so far as to back modest cannabis rescheduling, decriminalizing possession, expunging past records, legalizing medical marijuana and protecting states’ rights to enact their own policies. Biden did select a head of a major federal health agency who is amenable to reform, however, and in his role he could help facilitate rescheduling.

As far as Biden in concerned, he feels marijuana should be placed in Schedule II, the second most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act, along with cocaine. But advocates argue that does not go far enough and could have an inadvertent, adverse impact on state-legal markets. They’re pushing him to adopt a policy of complete descheduling, which would be accomplished if a bill approved by the House earlier this month makes it through the Senate and onto the president’s desk.

With respect to executive action, it should be noted that experts have raised questions about the feasibility of unilaterally ending prohibition through that process, much less on the first day of a presidency.

In the TMZ interview, Killer Mike also talked about local reform in his home state state of Georgia, stating that he will be pushing the governor and legislature to enact legalization. The policy change is inevitable, he said, but lawmakers must ensure that there’s “a presence of African-American ownership in Georgia for marijuana.”

“We have had young men serve 10, 20, 30, 40 years and then they get out and they cannot participate in the trade that they help build,” he said. “That’s like a moonshiner who moonshined through prohibition not getting the chance to have a liquor license. We’ve done that mistake before so I want to demand NORML and other marijuana organizations out there to get people of color on the forefront.”

“I’m going to be frank and say Black folks deserve it. We deserve at least 25 percent of the marijuana industry because it has truly been built on our backs, and we need more MedMen that are owned by men that look like me,” he added. “I want to demand that progressives, and especially Black Democrats that are out there, start to demand locally marijuana policy on a state level that is inclusive of the people.”

Georgia is at the center of national attention right now, as two Democratic Senate hopefuls enter into a runoff election next week. And the outcome of those races could determine the fate of federal marijuana policy because if both Democrats win, the party will retake the Senate and would be in a much better position to advance reform.

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NBA Could Permanently End Marijuana Tests So It Doesn’t Become ‘Big Brother,’ Commissioner Says

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A temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana may well become permanent, the league’s commissioner said this week.

“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Commissioner Adam Silver told NBC’s Today. “I think society’s views around marijuana has changed to a certain extent.”

Rather than mandate blanket tests, he said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

“I’d say the same thing about alcohol or any other substance,” Silver said.

He made similar remarks in a recent interview with The Sports Daily, stating that he’s “not sure whether marijuana should be treated differently than other substances, including alcohol, that are otherwise legal that players could be using and creating issues around.”

“I recognize that society’s views around marijuana use have changed dramatically since these rules were put in place, and in many ways the suspension of random testing this season is a recognition of that,” he said. “If our players are traveling from jurisdiction to jurisdiction—from jurisdictions that do not have prohibitions to jurisdictions where there’s still criminal penalties for possession and use of marijuana—we want to make sure we’re not creating a trap for our players and putting in place rules that will put them in the crosshairs of the law.”

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t still a concern from the league that marijuana, no different than alcohol, can be abused,” he added. “It’s something that we want to play close attention to, especially given the incredible stress that our players are often under, and particularly given the stress of playing in a pandemic.”

NBA initially announced a temporary suspension of cannabis drug testing earlier this year, as players finished out their season in the so-called “bubble” arena in Orlando. That was later extended to the entire 2020-2021 season following an agreement between the league and the players’ union

Michele Roberts, the head of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) who also joined the board of the major cannabis company Cresco Labs this year, predicted in a recent interview that a formal change to codify the policy indefinitely could come as early as “next season.”

While NBA won’t be subjecting players to random drug testing for THC, they will continue to test “for cause” cases where players have histories of substance use, for example.

If NBA does ultimately end marijuana testing, it would be another example of evolving drug policies within national sports leagues. Earlier this year, the MLB announced that players would not longer be tested for cannabis, though they’re barred from being sponsored by marijuana companies.

The NFL also made the decision to end suspensions for positive drug tests as well as limiting the testing window.

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