MLB also focuses on providing treatment over punishment for those who test positive for opioids and other substances.
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Major League Baseball made a major change to its drug-testing policy in December, removing cannabis from its list of Banned Substances. The league now plans to treat weed like alcohol, offering players optional treatment.
That’s a major change in how most professional sports league’s treats cannabis, which many athletes have turned to for training and recovery.
Also, in the wake of the overdose death of a pitcher — the Los Angeles Angels’ Tyler Skaggs — the league has focused on testing for opioid misuse. The policy amendments also provide players treatment when they test positive for substances on the Drugs of Abuse list, which now includes opioids, cocaine, LSD and MDMA, among other drugs.
Jim Carroll, the White House drug czar, praised the move because it will “prioritize treatment over punishment,” according to the New York Times. Carroll also noted that “millions of Americans struggle with substance misuse and need help.”
Natural Cannabinoids Are Taken Off The Drugs Of Abuse List
According to the new policy released by MLB, “natural cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD and marijuana) will be removed from the programs list of Drugs of Abuse. Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct.”
Players who are caught using cannabis will be referred to a treatment board. However, athletes cannot be punished for not participating in a treatment program.
As part of the new policy, which was agreed upon by both the teams and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), players will be given education in the 2020 and 2021 seasons about the dangers of opioids and “practical approaches to marijuana.”
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The Death Of A Player Sparked The Change
Baseball acted fast to make the change in the wake of the death of Skaggs, the 27-year-old pitcher for the Angels who died in a hotel room in Dallas of July 2019 during an Angels road trip to play the Texas Rangers.
Skaggs was found to have oxycodone, fentanyl and alcohol in his system. His death was ruled an accidental overdose, much like the death of actor Heath Ledger in 2008, which also involved prescription painkillers. Skaggs’ death sparked a conversation around the league about what could be done to prevent a similar tragedy.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told NPR: “I think that it was a motivating factor in the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA getting together and addressing in the context of our industry what is really a societal problem in terms of opioids.”
According to the Times, players who test positive will get referred to a board of medical professionals specializing in substance abuse. The board also will include MLB and MLBPA representatives. If needed, a personalized treatment plan will be created. Players can only be disciplined if they do not cooperate with the initial evaluation or treatment plan.