Sports associations and THC testing

May 9, 2023

Since the legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018 and with a growing number of U.S. states legalizing it for medical or recreational purposes, various international and national sporting bodies and sports leagues have been updating their rules regarding cannabis testing.

A new report from the Wall Street Journal published in April states the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will keep cannabis on its list of banned substances for 2023, despite previously announcing that it would conduct a scientific review to evaluate the status of cannabis on its banned substances list. Moreover, the agency’s Prohibited List Expert Advisory Group has supported keeping cannabis on the ban list, suggesting that based on the available scientific evidence, cannabis meets the criteria to be included on it.

Meanwhile, following a seven-year collective bargaining agreement, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association have reached an agreement that would result in officially removing cannabis drug testing requirements for athletes.

On the other hand, the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) regarding cannabis testing has been unchanged since 2020. As a result of the agreement, the league decreased the cannabis testing window from four months over the summer to two weeks at the beginning of training camp. Furthermore, the threshold for a positive THC test was also increased to 150 nanograms of THC/milliliter from 35 ng/mL. If tested positive for cannabis use, NFL players currently do not receive suspensions, but are required to undergo a medical review to determine whether they need treatment.

Earlier in April, the Chicago Cubs became the first Major League Baseball team with a cannabidiol (CBD) sponsor after signing a deal with Mynd Drinks. According to the agreement, the Chicago-based brand will have several activations within Wrigley Field, including baseline signage, in-game features, and international marketing rights in the United Kingdom for the 2023 regular season. Both WADA and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) exempted the CBD from their list of prohibited substances in 2018.

“We’re proud to be the first club to partner with a CBD company, but what was more important to us was making sure that the brand was the right fit,” said Alex Seyferth, the Cubs’ vice president of corporate partnerships, in a released statement.