Despite league rules, NBA won’t test for recreational cannabis use when season restarts

Marijuana and Disney World sounds oxymoronic. Like jumbo shrimp and liquid gas.

But, 22 NBA teams are scheduled to report to Disney World on July 7-8 to live and play on-site in the resumption of the 2019-20 season suspended because of the coronavirus. For two teams, this sequestering could last until a possible Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Oct. 13.

During this time, the NBA will not conduct drug tests for recreational drugs. That includes marijuana.

Bobby Marks, ESPN’s NBA front office insider, shrugged.

“I don’t make much of it,” he said. “There’s so much testing that’s going to be going on already.”

Of course, the NBA will test for coronavirus and performance-enhancing drugs at Disney World.

There could be a practical reason for not testing for recreational drugs. Additional testing can mean contact with additional persons doing these tests.

During a typical regular —and that term takes on added meaning at this time —season, the NBA quietly tests for marijuana use. According to NBC Sports, a first offense carries no penalty, a second a $25,000 fine. Neither offense is announced.

A third violation, which carries a five-game suspension, is announced. But no mention is made of marijuana.

NBC Sports reported in February that between 50% and 85% of NBA players use cannabis products.

Tyrone Ross, executive industry advisor to CanaFarma (which markets hemp products), said he believed the higher percentage was more accurate. He saluted the decision not to test for recreational drugs at Disney World as indicative of the NBA being “probably the most progressive sports league we have.”

Marks and Ross said cannabis products can help players deal with anxiety or unhappiness.

Marks said he had asked NBA Draft prospects about marijuana use.

“If you had a choice, what makes you feel worse the next day: marijuana or alcohol?” he said he’s asked. “I’d say for 10 out of 10, it’s alcohol. So, I think for these guys, it’s more of a stress relief.”

Ross went so far as to suggest that marijuana use in various forms —edibles, CBD oil, etc. —could enhance a player’s performance. Being “genetically superior,” an NBA player could play under the influence, he said.

Ross, a 2004 Olympic qualifier in the 400 meters, said he uses CBD oil as a sleep aid. Without it, “I sleep very lightly,” he said. “I can hear a mosquito pass gas.”

Stephen Jackson, who retired in 2015 after a 14-season NBA career, disagreed with the notion of a player competing while under the influence.

“Nobody can play high, especially in the NBA,” he told NBC Sports. “It’s a high level of competition, and guys are great, so nobody can play high.”

Jackson said cannabis products could help players relax after competition.

Should the NBA discontinue testing for marijuana in future seasons, Ross would expect guidelines on use.

“I can’t imagine paying somebody $30 million … are you just giving them free reign?” he said. “I’m sure (Gregg) Popovich being the main one, and a few others, that’s not going to fly with them.”

Incidentally, it is against the law in Florida to possess marijuana. Twenty grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by one-year imprisonment or a maximum of a $1,000 fine. More than 20 grams is a felony punishable by a five-year prison sentence or a maximum of a $5,000 fine.

“I live in Florida,” Marks said. “We’re not like Colorado.

“Basically, what you bring in is what’s going to be there. So, if you’re going to bring marijuana in, then hopefully it can last you for a couple months.”