NHL in first place with marijuana policy

A marijuana plant. Marijuana and other Cannabis products are legal in 28 of the 31 cities where the NHL has a franchise. (Shutterstock)

‘Say Nope To Dope’ is a lesson that most of the major sports leagues willingly promote. The NFL, MLB, and NBA all have varying levels of punishment for testing positive for marijuana or other cannabis products. But one league is a step ahead when it comes to this issue. The NHL not only believes that recreational and medical use of marijuana should be permitted, but they also do not even want to know about it.

Whether you agree with this policy or not, the NHL does not have much of a choice in the matter. Marijuana use is allowed either recreationally or medicinally in 28 of the NHL’s 31 cities. The NHL understands that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing substance and that it can often be used to treat a myriad of physical and mental issues.

Since marijuana is so readily available, the league has decided that they do not even want to know if a player tests positive. All urine tests are screened for drug abuse like cocaine, opioids, and marijuana. If a player does test positive for abnormally high amounts of THC, meaning that the player is using cannabis frequently, then the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program will contact the player and offer them a personalized substance abuse treatment program. The player has the option to either accept or deny the program. What makes this such a novel idea is that neither the NHL or the Players Union are notified if a player tests positive for high levels of THC. The league believes that it is a personal problem, like alcohol abuse, and has practices in place to help the players. The assumption is that the marijuana was purchased legally. The league had to adapt when marijuana became legal in Canada back in October of 2018.

Former NHL enforcer and current host of the popular Spittin Chiclets podcast Paul Bissonnette openly talks about how anxiety impacted him during his playing career. He was asked to perform in front of thousands of people and was openly criticized by the media and fans after every game. Now that his playing days are behind him, Bissonette uses CBD, which he claims has drastically changed his life and helped his anxiety levels as well as help with pain management from various injuries that he sustained during his 202 game NHL career.

The other leagues also offer substance abuse programs, for testing positive for marijuana. The issue is that they will also begin suspending and fining players after multiple positive tests. What is the point of this? Just like the NHL, the majority of the teams are located in areas where marijuana is legal either recreationally or medically. The NBA is the lowest with 22 of its 30 franchises in a city where weed can legally be bought and used. There is no difference between the abuse of marijuana and the abuse of alcohol. Yet one substance is illegal in three of the four major sports leagues and the other can be consumed whenever and wherever they want. It’s time that the other professional sports leagues caught up to the NHL and get rid of suspensions and fines for players who use marijuana.

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Thomas Tittley

A Hamilton native I enjoy long walks in the park and Pina Coladas. I have a dog, let's talk about him.

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