NBA Removes Drug Testing for THC

Stephen Andrews
06 Apr 2023

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have reportedly reached a deal where players won't have to go through drug testing for THC. While the agreement still needs to be formally codified with the league, it signals a new era in cannabis and sports.

The NBA announced that it would eliminate its ban on marijuana and remove random drug testing for the plant in a new collective bargaining agreement reached with NBPA. Once official, the decision will also suspend cannabis testing for the past three seasons. 

The new union deal, which came together last weekend, speaks volumes of shifting societal views around cannabis and acknowledges that NBA athletes can benefit from medicinal cannabis, often to heal an injury or treat sore muscles. Other sports leagues and organizations are likely to follow suit with NBA in the near future. 

While the agreement removes obstacles to consuming cannabis, NBA will also let players invest in cannabis and engage in promotional activities for cannabis brands. Players can also invest in NBA and WNBA teams and sign endorsement deals with sports betting companies, given that those deals are of non-gambling character. 

Some NBA stars are already active with special partnerships, however. A-list player Kevin Durant teamed up with Weedmaps in 2021 in a partnership that aims at destigmatizing cannabis and highlighting the plant's healing potential for athletes. 

In recent years, many other athletes have openly spoken about using cannabis and how it has helped their health and well-being. A lot of athletes use cannabis to aid and recover after training or after a personal loss; such was the case with Sha'Carri Richardson

Richardson's case sparked a huge debate about whether cannabis use is acceptable among athletes. She was all over the news after she was banned from participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for THC following her mother's death. The athlete's suspension from the games led to an outrage, and over half a million people backed a petition to reinstate her, albeit unsuccessfully. 

More recently, basketball player Brittney Griner was in the spotlight for almost a year after being detained in Russia for possessing cannabis vapes. She spent months in jail before she was returned to the U.S. in a prisoner swap. 

These cases remind us that although athletes make remarkable achievements in whatever arena they are competing in or fighting for a medal, they, too, are human beings. So sometimes they need means to find relief, either from personal loss or to recover the body. For many athletes, that comfort can come exactly from cannabis. 

Stephen Andrews