NBA Policy Clarification

Stephen Andrews
09 May 2023

The National Basketball Association (NBA) recently announced that it will remove drug testing for THC under a new agreement reached between the league and the players. Earlier reports on the new collective bargaining deal also said players could promote marijuana brands. Still, a policy update says players can only support CBD brands openly, and they are free to make other passive investments.

NBA clarified that players wouldn't be able to promote cannabis brands. However, the league will allow players to make passive investments and, more importantly, it removes testing requirements for THC. 

The update comes after early reports on the new collective bargaining agreement said players could also engage in promotional activities for marijuana brands.  

A new summary document reads that players "may promote a company that makes products containing CBD," but players will "continue to be prohibited from promoting marijuana companies." 

The new collective agreement that goes into effect on July 1 will allow players to invest in CBD brands without any mentioned restrictions, and they could "also hold a passive, non-controlling interest in a company that makes products containing marijuana." 

However, by far, the most significant change that the NBA is embracing is abandoning THC testing on players. Teams could still refer players to a treatment program if there is a "reason to believe one of its players is under the influence of marijuana while engaged in NBA or team-related activities, or has a dependency issue involving marijuana."

Just a little over ten years ago, professional basketball players were arrested and suspended if they were found to possess weed. The NBA's softened approach to marijuana comes at a time when cannabis reform is widely accepted nationwide. Almost all professional sports have gone weed-friendly. The national leagues for baseball and hockey (MLB and NHL) have already stopped punishing players for testing positive for weed. The National Football League (NFL) permits players to consume cannabis in the offseason. 

Some A-list basketball players have publicly spoken about their personal use of weed even before the announcement of the new NBA policy. Kevin Durant, an NBA Finals MVP and 13-time All-Star, teamed up with tech giant Weedmaps in 2021; he also openly spoke that cannabis helped clear his mind in an interview with David Letterman last year. In the same interview, Durant underlined that cannabis is something that helps him cope with the stress coming from being a professional athlete and went on as far as to say he was "high right now" in the interview. 

The NBA initially dropped the THC testing requirement in 2020 when the league's players quarantined together in Florida to play a shortened season during the pandemic outbreak. When the players left isolation a couple of months later, the league did not reintroduce testing. 

The league and its players then continued to negotiate on a collective bargaining agreement, now ratified. The deal will remain valid until 2029. Attorneys from both sides are still working to finetune the final text. 

Stephen Andrews