NBA Removes Marijuana from Prohibited Substance List

July 26, 2023 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, News & Announcements

A new agreement signed by the NBA Players Association and NBA league officials has removed cannabis from its list of banned substances. While random drug screenings may still occur for players, there will be limits to the specific punishments. The agreement comes after both the NFL and MLB have adopted similar agreements to become more lenient on marijuana use.

This page will provide insight on the new collective bargaining agreement, the WADA prohibited substances list, and information on Florida’s laws surrounding marijuana use.

NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement

The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that they would refrain from drug testing players for marijuana use during the 2020-2021 season. The announcement made by the NBA spokesperson explained that the reason was partially due to the COVID pandemic, and that the NBA would instead focus on random testing for performance-enhancing products. Previously, NBA players who tested positive for marijuana use three times within a single season would be suspended for five games.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced in September 2021 that it would reevaluate its regulations on cannabis after public outrage over athlete Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension from testing positive for cannabis. The WADA standard had deemed marijuana as a “substance of abuse” on its 2021 Prohibited List. That meant if any professional athlete tested positive for traces of THC in their system on the day of a game or match, it would result in punishment for the athlete.

In addition, NORML—the organization fighting for State and Federal marijuana laws—received nearly 600,000 petition signatures for WADA to reconsider the existing policies to comply with the shifting legal standings of cannabis.

In October 2021, the NBA announced it would once again suspend the random drug testing of marijuana for its players. NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal gave the following statement on the pause in testing policy:

“The NBA, like a number of sports leagues, has wisely recognized that it is inappropriate to subject players to drug detection testing for their off-the-court use of cannabis. Their actions are part of a growing trend, and we anticipate that their decision will propel other organizations and companies to make similar changes to their drug screening process.”

Aside from the NBA, both the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) amended their policies on drug testing of marijuana. The MLB announced in 2019 it would remove marijuana from the list of banned substances and to treat the player’s consumption the same way as alcohol is handled. Early in 2020 the NFL followed suit and announced they would no longer issue suspensions for players who tested positive for marijuana exposure. Additionally, players will only be tested during a two-week period at the beginning of training camp.

Evidence found in a 2021 study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that while cannabis use does not necessarily benefit sport performance, marijuana and/or CBD was found to have the promise of aiding athletes with physical recovery, helping improve sleep quality, and help with mild traumatic brain injury.

As of June 2023, the NBA announced it signed a new contract that removes marijuana from the banned substance list. This  is a more permanent version of the temporary changes first implemented in 2020. Now the NBA will refrain from testing players for cannabis use; however, players who are suspected of any marijuana-related dependency may be referred to a Medical Director for a mandatory evaluation.

To read the full 2023 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can find the full document here.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is an international agency that was established in 1999 to create a collective worldwide foundation that was created by the International Olympic Committee to promote, coordinate, and monitor athletes to prevent unlawful drug use in sports.

The goal of WADA is to develop and maintain anti-drug rules and policies for all athletes across the globe. Their key activities include the following:

  • Scientific and social science research;
  • Education;
  • Intelligence and investigations;
  • Development of anti-drug capacity; and
  • Monitoring of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Program.

How Does WADA Determine Substances for the Prohibited List?

According to WADA’s site, the Prohibited List can include any substance or method that meets any two of the following three criteria:

  1. Has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance;
  2. Represents an actual potential health risk to the athlete; and/or
  3. Violates the “spirit of sport,” which is defined under WADA’s Code as the “ethical pursuit of human excellence through the dedicated perfection of each Athlete’s natural talents.”

WADA’s 2023 Prohibited List

WADA’s prohibited list includes several different categories and explains whether the substance is always prohibited, or just during competition for athletes. Certain anabolic agents, growth factors, Beta-2 agonists, and hormone and metabolic modulators are always banned for athletes.

The stimulants that are banned for athletes during competition include, but are not limited to:

  • Amphetamine
  • Benzylpiperazine
  • Cocaine
  • Fenethylline
  • Methamphetamine

Exceptions to the stimulant restrictions include caffeine and nicotine.

The narcotics that are banned for athletes during competition include, but are not limited to:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl and its derivatives
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

The cannabinoids that are banned for athletes during competition include:

  • All natural and synthetic cannabinoids found in cannabis (hashish, marijuana, and cannabis products);
  • Synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC; and
  • Natural and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs).

The exception to the cannabinoid restriction is cannabidiol (CBD), which is a chemical in the cannabis sativa plant and is also referred to as “hemp.”

Florida Charges for Marijuana

Although sports organizations are becoming more lenient with certain cannabis use for athletes, it is important to point out that unless you have a medical marijuana card, possessing marijuana is still considered a criminal offense in the state of Florida. That means if a Florida athlete is caught with  the unlawful possession of marijuana, they could face criminal charges.

Florida Statutes § 893.13 lays out the various penalties for cannabis possession:

Possession of 20 grams or less – Considered simple possession and a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable with up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Possession of more than 20 grams but less than 25lbs – Considered felony possession and a third-degree felony, punishable with up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Possession over 25lbs but less than 2,000lbs (or 300 – 2,000 cannabis plants) – Considered a second-degree felony, punishable with up to a $25,000 fine and a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison, with a possibility of up to 15 years for the maximum sentence.

Possession over 2,000lbs but less than 10,000lbs (or 2,000 – 10,000 cannabis plants) – Considered a first-degree felony, punishable with up to a $50,000 fine and a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years in prison, with a possibility of up to 30 years for the maximum sentence.

Possession of 10,000lbs or more of cannabis – Considered a first-degree felony, punishable with up to a $200,000 fine and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, with a possibility of up to 30 years for the maximum sentence. .

To find out about medical marijuana and the medical necessity defense, refer to our blog post here.

For more information on marijuana charges in Florida, refer to our page here.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney with Pumphrey Law

Even with marijuana laws continuously becoming more lenient and societal acceptance increasing, there are still plenty of innocent Floridians who face prosecution for marijuana-related offenses. The legal landscape surrounding marijuana use in Florida can be confusing to the average person because it remains as a Schedule 1 substance. However, Floridians with a valid medical marijuana card are eligible to purchase and use certain marijuana products.

If you have questions regarding Florida’s stance on marijuana possession or have been unfairly arrested for a crime relating to cannabis, you should seek out a defense attorney. Getting convicted of any drug charge has the potential to negatively impact your future. You could be left to face high-cost fines or be sentenced to prison. When you hire Don Pumphrey and his team, we prioritize building your case and provide a defense to fight the charges against you. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm’s office today at (850) 681-7777 and let our experienced drug charges attorneys provide you with a free case evaluation

Written by Karissa Key

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