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NBA Officially Suspends Random Marijuana Testing for 2020-21 Season

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, the NBA logo is displayed at center court during an NBA first-round playoff basketball game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. NBA training camps open around the league Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020,though on-court sessions will be limited to individual workouts and only for those players who have gotten three negative coronavirus test results back in the last few days. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The NBA announced Friday that it was suspending random marijuana testing for the upcoming 2020-21 season, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times

"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," NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement.

In November, four more states—New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota—voted to legalize recreational marijuana. One third of American states now have legalized recreational marijuana. And the House of Representatives passed the MORE Act on Friday, which "decriminalizes cannabis and clears the way to erase nonviolent federal marijuana convictions," per Alicia Victoria Lozano of NBC News.

While the Senate is unlikely to pass that bill, it was another example of the shifting cultural attitudes toward marijuana. Natalie Fertig of Politico reported that "49 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats support full legalization of marijuana, according to Gallup."

The NBA had a similar testing policy in the Orlando bubble for marijuana, and has eased its punishments for positive tests, with players needing to test positive three times in normal circumstances to earn a suspension. 

Stein noted that the current collective bargaining agreement still bans marijuana and testing for the drug with "cause" will continue. The NBA seems to be moving toward a more lenient policy on the drug, though.

Commissioner Adam Silver said in 2019 that the league was more concerned about marijuana use in-season or before games—and how heavy marijuana use might be a mental wellness concern—than what players did in their off time.

"When I've talked to players about it, I think they have mixed feelings. It's not so much about what guys do in the summer," he said. "If they want to smoke pot, whatever, it's legal in a lot of states. We have no issue with that."

Given the ongoing cultural shift in the United States regarding marijuana, it seems likely the NBA will probably do away with testing for the substance altogether in the future. 

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