The NBA and its players’ association have agreed to suspend random testing for marijuana during the 2020-21 season.
Players have already arrived in their home cities for the 72-game season, which starts on December 22, two months after the NBA concluded last season inside a controlled quarantine ‘bubble’ at Walt Disney World due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league also suspended marijuana testing in the Orlando bubble after the restart.
“Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the NBPA to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” league spokesman Mike Bass said.
A total of 48 players out of 546 tested positive for COVID-19 as part of the NBA’s “initial return-to-market testing phase,” the league said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports in May 2019, commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA down the road might change its policy on marijuana, which calls for a $25,000 fine for a second positive test, followed by suspensions for three or more violations.
He said: “I think that, clearly to the extent it has medicinal qualities, those are things that we should be looking at. Where it’s in terms of pain relief, of course. And that’s something that’s being studied, not just by us. The NFL recently announced they’re studying that issue, as well. And we should look at it.”
Silver added that any alterations to league policy would require thoughtful consideration.
“I think when we change our policy, we have to be very careful, because clearly we’re going to be sending a message to a lot of young people,” he said.
“And at the end of the day, I think we all agree that, whether or not marijuana is a legal substance, just like with alcohol, you still have to teach young people how to use a substance like that appropriately and responsibly and so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.
“So, it’s a complicated issue.”