Despite Policy Change, Major League Baseball Warns Players Against Using Pot

MLB officials remind athletes that they can’t show up to work stoned.
MLB to Remove Cannabis From List Of Abused Drugs, Will Test For Opioids And Cocaine
Tage Olsin/ Wikimedia Commons

Major League Baseball unveiled a groundbreaking policy late last year, removing marijuana from its list of banned substances in favor of stricter testing on more dangerous drugs like opioids. 

But if players thought it was suddenly safe to get high after a grueling, extra innings game, the league office issued a warning last week: think again.

In a memo reported on by ESPN, deputy commissioner Dan Halem said that MLB may still take disciplinary action against players who run afoul of marijuana laws. Halem handed down other warnings — including one that effectively rules out a clubhouse toke during the seventh inning stretch.

Any player or member of the team “appear under the influence of marijuana or any other cannabinoid during any of the Club’s games, practices, workouts, meetings or otherwise during the course and within the scope of their employment” will face an evaluation for treatment, according to Halem’s memo, as reported by ESPN. 

In addition, the memo also said that the league is sorting out rules over players’ involvement in the burgeoning cannabis industry, warning that “until such guidance is issued, any such investments or commercial arrangements are still considered to be prohibited in accordance with current practices.”

Major League Baseball’s Stance on Marijuana

Major League Baseball announced the new policy in December, five months Los Angeles Angels’ Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a hotel room; an examiner later found alcohol and two opioid-based painkillers, fentanyl and oxycodone, in his system.

The policy, agreed to by the league and the players’ union, expanded drug testing to include opioids and cocaine; those who test positive will be referred to a treatment board. Under the new policy, marijuana was reclassified and removed from the list of banned substances, and the thought was that it would be treated essentially the same way that the league treats alcohol. 

Previously, players in the major leagues were dealt fines for marijuana-related offenses, but the punishment in the minor leagues was much stiffer, often a lengthy suspension. The new policy announced last year extended to the minor leagues, removing the risk of suspension for testing positive for marijuana. 

But the memo last week made it clear that MLB is not recommending pot for any of its players, with Halem warning that club “medical personnel are prohibited from prescribing, dispensing or recommending the use of marijuana or any other cannabinoid”

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