Contributor: Timothy D. Pineda
Growing up as a child in this great country of ours, I, much like my peers, was obsessed with professional sports. Having been born in the 80’s and raised throughout the 90’s, I saw my fair share of greatness. Legends like Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, and Barry Bonds were constantly on the forefront of my athletic-centric mind. However, during this era, there was a pretty big scandal that took place, and it seemed to have its fingerprints plastered all over every major sport.
That scandal, as I’m sure many of your remember, surrounded the use of steroids.
Athletes of all walks of life were vehemently banned from using any sort of performance-enhancing drugs. Not only were they illegal across the board, but they offered up those individuals unfair advantages. Through the use of steroids and HGH, these players became super-human. They were stronger, faster, and able to have incredibly long careers. But it was mostly due to their cheating ways.
I completely understand the various leagues banning these sorts of substances. Not only was it unfair, but it put the lives, health, and overall well-being of these players at risk. Some have even died from steroid use. In short, it’s no joke. And it’s a justifiably illegal, banned substance.
Whenever a player tested positive for PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs), they were often slapped with major financial penalties, along with a hearty suspension. Leagues are always trying to make examples out of these athletes, and they often do so through historically long suspensions, with the most extreme cases resulting in permanent bans from the sport altogether.
All of that has always made sense to me. These people were using illegal means to gain an edge on the competition. They were increasing their athletic ability and prowess to achieve otherwise unattainable goals. Basically, it just wasn’t fair (or safe).
But what has never made sense to me, is how these same leagues would punish athletes who tested positive for marijuana just as harshly, sometimes even more severely, than those who were caught with PEDs.
All those people were trying to do was relax and recover from a life spent in athletics. Marijuana won’t make anyone jump higher, run faster, or increase their strength. It is simply a natural medicine that is used far and wide for its therapeutic and pain-relieving properties. Yet, leagues all over the country were quick to hit these marijuana-using athletes with hefty penalties. It just didn’t seem fair.
However, it appears the tide is turning in favor of those weed-smoking superstars. As more and more states start to embrace cannabis through legalization, it’s quickly becoming apparent that it’s only a matter of time before marijuana is fully decriminalized, and legalized from coast to coast. It’s on the fast track to being just as socially accepted as it’s much more dangerous, potentially lethal alcoholic counterpart.
But players are never dinged for having booze in their system. And I’d argue that’s just a more sketchy way of relaxing after a tough day. But marijuana offers even better relief than alcohol ever could, without any negative side effects. Not only that, but the CBD and THC elements of cannabis can help their weary bodies recover in a more organic fashion, as opposed to the opioids most trainers are forced to give their aching players.
It seems as though the folks in the front office of Major League Baseball are wise to that fact, as well. Because just this week, the MLB officially removed marijuana from its popular list of banned substances.
This, as I’m sure you can already tell, is a major win for all those cannabis-loving athletes, and the cannabis community, in general. Experts are predicting that this historic move will inspire other leagues to take a similar approach to amending their current banned substance policies.
The MLB released a public statement on the change, and they were more than detailed with their explanation and reasoning for why this rule change was made.
In their press release, they said, “Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment, and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids.”
While the MLB did away with their ban on marijuana, they added a few substances to their banned list this year. The new forbidden substances include: opioids containing fentanyl, cocaine, and synthetic cannabinoids.
The MLB continued on with their statement, adding, “In agreeing to these modifications to the Program, MLB and the MLBPA continue to favor a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it.”
When the Deputy Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Dan Halem, was reached for comment on the change, he was more than adamant about his feelings. Halem remarked, “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball. It is our hope that this agreement – which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness, and education – will help protect the health and safety of our Players.”
He wasn’t done yet. Halem proceeded to elaborate on his initial statement by saying, “It is our collective hope that this agreement will help raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of opioid medications and contribute positively to a national conversation about this important topic.”
While the MLB is getting praise left and right for their decision to remove marijuana from their list of banned substances, they even received some love from the White House. Jim Carroll, the current White House Drug Czar said that they, “…applaud the efforts of both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to prioritize treatment over punishment.”
He later added that this, “…historic agreement is an example of how we can all work toward a common goal and save more of our friends, family members, and neighbors from dying of a drug overdose. By coming together, the parties are implementing positive change that has the potential to save lives.”
I can only imagine how happy this makes the players feel. Their league is finally learning about the endless wealth of benefits that cannabis has to offer. Also, their acknowledgement that it is not a performance-enhancing drug is long overdo, but hey, at least it happened. Hopefully, in the very near future, other leagues across the nation will take a page out of MLB’s rule book, and allow their players to partake in marijuana without any fear of penalties or repercussions, as well.
While there are a lot of leagues out there, many people are speculating that the next one to make a similar move would be the NFL. And rightfully so. Their players, arguably, take on the most brutal punishments week in and week out. They need the healing properties of cannabis more than anyone, in my personal opinion.
So, the fact that these behemoths would get penalized, and lose (potentially) millions of dollars, simply for smoking marijuana to cure their aching bones and muscles, seems completely asinine to me. But, hopefully, that change will happen sooner than later, due to this historic move on the part of Major League Baseball.
But, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.