NBA cannabis
Illustration: Eric Barrow

Under a new labor agreement, the NBA (National Basketball Association) will allow players to use cannabis.

Once ratified, the NBA will remove cannabis from its drug testing program. The NBA had previously discontinued testing for cannabis in 2020 amid the covid-19 scare.

NBA Approves Cannabis Use for Players

NBA Cannabis

Once players and team governors ratify the deal, it will become official. And there’s more to it than just allowing professional NBA players to smoke cannabis.

The deal allows players to promote or invest in cannabis companies, as well as other non-cannabis-related items, such as allowing players to invest in WNBA teams.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the National Basketball Players Association said: “Specific details will be made available once a term sheet is finalized.”

While the NBA suspended testing in March 2020, late in 2021, the NBA announced it was no longer randomly testing playing for cannabis. At the time, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the league wanted to “focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse.”

Some NBA players – including Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Allen Iverson – have been open about their cannabis consumption. Both men would like to see the federal government legalize it.

What Makes Cannabis a PED?

NBA Approves Cannabis Use for Players

While the NBA approving cannabis-use players is a set in the right direction, it doesn’t come as a surprise. As mentioned, since covid hysteria gripped the world three years ago, the NBA has been dialling back their cannabis prohibition enforcement.

And while you could construe cannabis as a “performance-enhancing drug,” it pales in comparison to anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, erythropoietin, beta-blockers, and stimulants.

Cannabis becomes far more “performance-enhancing” when you’re a musician trying to write a melody, a writer stuck on a plot point, or an engineer trying to think outside the box.

Nevertheless, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is anti-cannabis. According to WADA, cannabis is prohibited in competition because it has a calming effect and may impact an athlete’s coordination, reaction time, and judgment.

One fails to see how that translates into performance enhancement.

Especially when public health busybodies are always telling us how cannabis impairs cognitive function, memory, and attention and negatively affects cardiovascular and respiratory function. As well as “causing” decreased motivation and ability to perform complex tasks.

So, depending on who you ask, cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug that the WADA is correct in banning from competitive sports.

Or it’s a performance-impairing drug that decreases cognition and action. So there’s no reason for the NBA to say no to cannabis.

Which is it? Performance-enhancing or performance-decreasing? If cannabis was performance-enhancing, shouldn’t we encourage people to drive stoned?

Maybe it’s a flower without any innate power of its own? Perhaps the only power it has are the ideas we assign to its effects.

What About Other National Sports?

NBA Approves Cannabis Use for Players

Assuming the deal goes through, NBA players can enjoy cannabis. But what about other national sports? Like America’s answer to Roman Gladiators: the National Football League.

Like the NBA, the NFL loosened its cannabis rules during the covid scare. But they didn’t eliminate cannabis testing altogether.

But as the NBA moves to ditch cannabis from its drug testing program, the NFL isn’t quite ready to budge. According to officials, since it remains illegal under federal law, it will stay banned by the NFL.

However, some speculate this is just internal NFL politics. 

The league has a collective bargaining agreement with the players. If they eliminated cannabis testing, the league would expect something in return from the NFL Players Association.