Major League Baseball (MLB) deserves a lot of credit. While other sports organizations, namely the NFL, hesitated on the issue of CBD, the MLB decided to change its drug policy in 2019.
It was a common-sense decision for many reasons. First of all, it seems silly that a player can’t use CBD vape juice in a state like California, where marijuana is legal. Imagine playing for the San Francisco Giants, only to discover that consuming products that are legal in your area could get you banned!
Then there is the small matter of playing through a 162-game regular season. Baseball is a physically demanding sport. Players sometimes have to get through a grueling triple-header while fighting pain. They also do an immense amount of traveling. A growing number of players find that products such as CBD vape juice, topicals, and oils can help.
It took a while, but the MLB finally decided to permit the use of CBD. It also became the first big sports league in America to take cannabis off its Drugs of Abuse list. This is a huge step, which will help countless athletes. It has also had a knock-on effect with the NFL following suit a year later.
A Tragic Loss
Major League Baseball didn’t always have such a tolerant view when it came to CBD and cannabis. Before the MLB’s landmark decision, players could expect punishment for THC use, in particular. It isn’t easy to test directly for CBD, and most drug tests seek THC metabolites.
However, professional sports leagues in America faced pressure to relax their draconian drug policies. Tragic tales involving alcohol and opioid abuse are too many to list. Despite the problems caused by both drugs, they remain remarkably easy to come by and legal. In contrast, cannabis remains a federally illegal substance.
From a legal standpoint, it made sense that players would turn to painkillers and alcohol instead. However, this practice resulted in players becoming addicted, often with disastrous consequences.
The death of Tyler Skaggs, the starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, in July 2019, was one such high-profile case. The 27-year-old became addicted to opioids and died from an overdose. The autopsy revealed that Skaggs had oxycodone, fentanyl, and alcohol in his system.
Even those who don’t die from their opioid addiction find that their career lies in tatters, and their lives get ruined.
The MLB Makes History
Perhaps the death of Skaggs helped persuade the MLB to make their decision. Whatever the reason, it made a massive decision in December 2019. In a press release, the MLB announced that “natural cannabinoids will be removed from the Program’s list of Drugs of Abuse.”
The statement continued by saying that cannabis-related conduct would be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct. This means that the use of marijuana leads to voluntary treatment, mandatory evaluation, and the potential for disciplinary action. The change came into effect by the spring of 2020.
The MLB also announced that it was going to test for synthetic THC, fentanyl, opioids, and cocaine. Those who test positive will have the option of working with the league on a treatment plan. Those who refuse are in danger of receiving a ban.
Cannabis Use Isn’t Legal in Baseball
It is important to realize that the MLB hasn’t legalized the use of marijuana. Any player who seems to be under the influence of cannabis must undergo a mandatory evaluation. This means baseball players can’t take the cannabinoid before or during a game, practice, meetings, workout, or anything else related to the sport.
It is also essential to remember that cannabis use in the MLB usually resulted in a fine and nothing more in the past. At least, that was the case for a first offense in general. However, minor league players received extremely harsh penalties, including lengthy bans. The change in drug policy means that minor league players are treated the same as their major league counterparts regarding cannabis use.
It is also worth noting that MLB clubs’ medical personnel are banned from prescribing or dispensing cannabis to players or officials. Also, it remains against the rules to store the plant at a team’s facilities. Breaching these rules could result in severe financial penalties.
The Future of MLB: CBD and Cannabis
There is little doubt that the MLB drug policy needed changing, particularly for THC and CBD use. Currently, there is an MMJ program at the very least in most of the 30 MLB team locations.
MLB players looking to play it safe may elect to use CBD instead. However, they must be careful as mislabeling is rife in the CBD industry, which remains unregulated. According to one study in 2018, almost 70% of CBD products bought online were mislabeled.
BMLB players could unwittingly buy CBD tainted with THC. This might lead to a positive drug test and a mandatory evaluation. It is best for MLB players to stick with CBD brands that provide third-party lab reports with every batch.