Changing Landscape: Sports Leagues’ Policies on Cannabis and Psychedelics

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Various professional sports leagues have made significant changes to their policies regarding athletes’ use of cannabis and psychedelics.

Recently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that it reached a deal allowing players to promote companies that make cannabidiol (CBD) products, clarifying that players will still not be able to promote Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) brands or have their own named brand (1). Cannabis testing was dropped in 2020 and this July it will be removed from the list of banned substances (1).

Prior to this, other leagues in recent years have enacted changes around cannabis use. The 2020-2021 National Football League (NFL) collective bargaining agreement resulted in a raised threshold for a positive cannabis test and also changed its policy on cannabis use during the offseason (1).


Similarly, CBD was removed from the banned substances list in Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2019, the first US sports league to do so (3). The MLB also signed a contract with CBD company Charlotte’s Web in 2022 (3).

Cannabis is not classified as a banned substance in the National Hockey League (NHL), but if tests reveal high levels of cannabis, a player can be offered discrete admission into the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program (2).

Last month, ESPN aired “Peace of Mind,” which follows the journey of several professional athletes at a retreat involving psilocybin and includes their commentary on using psychedelics to treat a range of mental health issues (4). “The athletes came hoping to address issues ranging from anxiety to depression to PTSD,” the press release explains (4). “By the end of the therapeutic retreat, each athlete left feeling hopeful, several for the first time in years.”