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MLB Officially Removes Marijuana From Banned Substances List For Baseball Players

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Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB players union announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances and will begin to treat its consumption by players in the same way that  alcohol use is handled.

The agreement is the product of negotiations on the league’s drug policy, with both parties agreeing that steps must be taken to handle drug misuse through a treatment-focused model, rather than by simply imposing penalties.

With that, MLB will also start to test for opioids and cocaine, and players who test positive will be referred to treatment. Only those who refuse the treatment program will be penalized.

The cannabis change reflects an attempt to modernize the league’s drug policy as more states move to enact legalization.

“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’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” MLB said in a press release.

In other words, players will only face discipline for violations related to unsanctioned conduct while under the influence, rather than simply for testing positive for THC. Previously, a positive test resulted in mandatory treatment, and failure to comply was punishable by a fine of up to $35,000.

At the same time, MLB is adding several substances to its list of drugs that will be tested: synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine and opioids including fentanyl.

Additionally, players will be required to participate in educational programs on “the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana.” The programs will focus on “evidence-based and health-first approaches based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.”

The changes will take effect beginning with 2020 Spring Training.

“In agreeing to these modifications to the Program, MLB and the MLBPA continue to favor a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it,” MLB said.

The drug policy shift comes after 27-year-old Anaheim Angels player Tyler Skaggs died of an opioid overdose, prompting a reevaluation of how the league can respond to the opioid crisis.

“The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem said. “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.”

“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,” he said.

White House Drug Czar Jim Carroll said “[w]e applaud the efforts of both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to prioritize treatment over punishment” and that this “historic agreement is an example of how we can all work toward a common goal and save more of our friends, family members, and neighbors from dying of a drug overdose.”

“By coming together, the parties are implementing positive change that has the potential to save lives,” he said.

While MLB has developed a reputation as being progressive in its drug policy decisions, other sports leagues have declined to take responsive action.

Earlier this year, the PGA announced that its golfers cannot use CBD, regardless of the federal legalization of hemp and its derivatives under the 2018 Farm Bill. The NFL reduced its marijuana penalty in 2014, but has made no changes to its cannabis policy since.

The World Anti Doping Agency, on the other hand, said in 2017 that athletes can use CBD.

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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.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Colorado Is Auctioning Marijuana-Themed License Plates To Raise Money For People With Disabilities

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Colorado is really leaning into its reputation as the marijuana state—for a good cause. Officials are taking the unique step of auctioning off cannabis-themed license plates to help raise money for a disability fund.

From April 1 to April 20, residents can bid on the vanity plates with terms like “BONG,” “GANJA,” “GOTWAX,” “HEMP,” “ISIT420” and even “TEGRIDY,” a nod to the fictional South Park marijuana farm.

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

Bids on several of the plates start at $420, of course.

“The Colorado Disability Funding Committee had the TEGRIDY to STASH away some great HERB related license plate configurations and is making them available to you,” a Facebook post states. “Don’t be GREEN with envy because your neighbor GOTWAX and HONEY, bid on a plate and support people with disabilities!”

“Colorado GANJA themed license plates could make you as HAPPY as your 100% HEMP t-shirt,” the post, which was uploaded on April 1 but is not an April Fool’s joke, continues. “Leave ya SATIVA and INDICA, put down the BONG, use our HASHtags to follow along.”

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

The page for each license plate up for auction includes a disclaimer not to drive while impaired and to use cannabis responsibly.

The proceeds of the auction will go to the Colorado Disability Funding Committee, which issues grants to organizations that “have new and innovative ideas that benefit the disability community.”

Given the popularity of Colorado’s marijuana market, which exceeded $2 billion in sales last year alone, it stands to reason that the plates will be a hit.

People who don’t live in Colorado can also bid. If they win, they will be sent a novelty plate without the security features that come on a normal plate.

Despite being one of the first states to legalize for adult use, Colorado’s cannabis program is continually evolving.

Last month, for example, the state House passed a bill to increase the lawful possession limit for marijuana and the governor signed legislation to create a social equity fund for the marijuana industry.

Gov. Jared Polis (D) visited a marijuana dispensary in Denver to sign the measure, which will establish a program within the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade that’s intended to support cannabis businesses owned by people who qualify as social equity licensees, primarily people most impacted by the drug war.

The program will receive an initial infusion of $4 million from the state’s marijuana tax fund—about $1 million short of what the governor had requested in January. The legislation was created in consultation with Black Brown and Red Badged (BBRB), a coalition of minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Last year, Polis signed a separate bill that creates a statewide definition of cannabis social equity licensees. Those businesses are now the ones that will primarily benefit from the new legislation.

This kind of funding is largely made possible from tax revenue derived by the state’s robust cannabis market. Data from the state’s Department of Revenue shows that more than $10 billion of marijuana has been sold since the adult-use program launched in 2014.

Another piece of cannabis reform legislation that cleared the Senate last month would require schools and school district to institute policies permitting employees to store and administer marijuana products for students who are registered medical cannabis patients.

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Seth Rogen’s Marijuana Biz Expands To U.S. While Jay-Z Gets Political With Cannabis Ad Campaign

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Monday was a big day in the celebrity marijuana space, with actor Seth Rogen announcing the U.S. launch of his cannabis brand and rapper Jay-Z revealing an ad campaign for his company that’s meant to highlight the absurdity of the war on drugs by pointing out that some states are more lax on cousin marriage, cannibalism or sex with farm animals than they are on weed.

Rogen’s elation in bringing his business, Houseplant, to the U.S. market was evident in a one-minute video he shared on social media.

After showcasing the tins his line of sativa and indica strains come in—as well a “table lighter” that’s part of the Houseplant collection—the actor of Pineapple Express and Superbad fame said that this is “honestly my life’s work and I’ve never been more excited about anything.”

The company also produced vinyl records with playlists that are meant to complement the effects of the various marijuana varieties like Pancake Ice.

Rogen has also leveraged his marijuana stardom for philanthropic purposes, putting on an adult carnival last year where the plant was featured to raise money for research into Alzheimer’s disease.

He appeared at a congressional hearing in 2014 and joked that while people might expect him to advocate for marijuana reform before the Senate committee, he was actually there to promote research into the disease, which his mother-in-law suffers from.

The actor also appeared in a PSA for National Expungement Week, an effort to help people free themselves from the burdens of prior marijuana convictions.

Meanwhile, JAY-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has his cannabis business, MONOGRAM. And on Monday, the company started a “national awareness campaign that draws attention to the hypocrisy of current regulations governing cannabis” in the U.S., a press release states.

Via Monogram.

Billboards and murals featuring text that compare laws prohibiting marijuana and other state and federal statutes have been posted in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Here are a few examples of the campaign messages: 

“Weed is a federal crime. Even in the states where sex with farm animals isn’t.”

“You can marry your first cousin in more states than you can buy recreational weed.”

“The war on drugs worked. If systemic racism was the goal.”

Via Monogram.

“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” Carter said. “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”

 

Earlier this year, the artist announced that he was putting $10 million toward a fund to promote participation in state-legal marijuana markets by communities most impacted by prohibition—an action that earned the praise of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“I led the effort to decriminalize & legalize cannabis because the war on drugs has been an abject failure—with disproportionate & devastating impacts on communities of color,” the governor said. “These are the types of entrepreneurial opportunities we dreamed of—thanks Jay-Z!”

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NFL Explores How Marijuana And CBD Can Be Used As Opioid Alternatives For Players

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The National Football League and NFL Players Association are launching an effort to learn about the potential of marijuana and its components like CBD as alternative treatment options for pain.

They’re also more generally interested in discovering how cannabis use affects athletic performance.

A request for information that was published on Tuesday states that the league’s goal is “to identify investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s (‘PMC’) knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

The notice lists three areas of interest:

1. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered to be alternatives to opioids in routine pain management of NFL players. Medications may include, but are not limited to, cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (“CBD”).

2. The impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in NFL players.

3. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered adjunctive to routine post-surgical orthopedic pain management in NFL football players.

The joint NFL-NFLPA committee also noted that, in 2020, it held two informational forums on CBD “to learn about the current state of CBD science and manufacturing in North America.”

The findings of those forums weren’t definitive, as PMC found that while the non-intoxicating cannabis compound shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”

“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee wrote in a white paper for players. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”

This new request for information stresses that NFL is not committing to funding any particular studies but is more generally meant to help the league find qualified scientists if it does move forward with research projects on these issues. Interested parties have until March 31 to submit relevant information.

Meanwhile, the league’s drug testing policy changed demonstrably last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Under the new policy, NFL players will not face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana.

The decision reflects a significant shift in the league’s approach to drug use by players, with the agreement emphasizing the need to focus on “ensuring evaluation and treatment” rather than punishment. Now those who test positive for drugs, exhibit behaviors that indicate drug misuse or self-refer themselves will be required to enter an “intervention program” where they would receive an evaluation and treatment plan.

Testing positive for prohibited substances after that point would result in a half-week salary loss for first violations, a one-week salary loss for second violations, a two-week salary loss for third violations and a three-week salary loss for fourth and subsequent violations. The threat of suspensions would be removed.

In a similar vein, the MLB decided in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Baseball players can consume marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they can’t work while under the influence and can’t enter into sponsorship contracts with cannabis businesses, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, a temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana amid the coronavirus pandemic may soon become permanent, the league’s top official said in December. Rather than mandate blanket tests, Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

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