MLB Could Stop Testing Minor Leaguers For Marijuana as Major Sports Leagues Confront the Substance

Marijuana could be lifted from the list of restrictions for minor league baseball players if a negotiation by the Major League Baseball Players Association becomes a reality. Minor leaguers currently have a layered punishment of 25 games to a lifetime ban from baseball if they test positive for marijuana. If the MLBPA wish comes true, then players in the lower leagues will not be punished by baseball.

A spokesperson from the MLBPA confirmed the negotiations for a new drug policy, according to the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. Major League Baseball players are not tested, so if it passes, then players from short season leagues all the way to the World Series champions can blaze up without fear of retribution from baseball.

It's likely a sign of the changing times of lax marijuana laws in the United States.

Right now, if a minor league player tests positive for marijuana, they could face a 25-game suspension for their first offense. The penalties incrementally increase with a 50-game suspension for a second positive test, 100 games for their third and a lifetime ban for a fourth. Opioid testing would be added to the policy under the negotiations, according to CBS Sports.

In addition, players won't be suspended, but rather placed into treatment programs, if they do test positive.

The negotiations have not been finalized, but they are a correlation of the country's growing legalization of marijuana—from medicinal to recreational. Some Democratic presidential candidates have even promised more lax laws across the nation, and the release of prisoners serving time for marijuana offenses.

Baseball is not the only professional league addressing this, but they approach it in different ways. The National Football League, for example, has maintained a hard stance on keeping marijuana on its banned list of substances. This is despite states like Colorado and California—where prominent NFL teams reside—have passed recreational marijuana laws.

Former NFL players say marijuana, whether medicinal or recreational, is a good alternative for the dings and bruises compiled over multiple weeks in a season, and multiple seasons in a career, to other opioids in which they could become addicted. The Los Angeles Times reported that players from its city's two franchises—Chargers and Rams—dodged its questions the same way players are ducking drug tests.

Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said aching players can find other methods of treatment for aches and pains outside of their team's training facility.

"There are a lot of alternative pain medications and treatments," Goodell said last spring when announcing the NFL's drug policy.

Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, said the league will not be persuaded by public policy in which 11 states have approved recreational marijuana and 33 states have allowed it for medicinal use.

"I think that the science, unfortunately, has lagged behind a lot of the popular opinion and press on this," Allen Sills said. "We have a lot more opinion than we do science on the use of marijuana for pain."

The National Basketball Association also evaluates this progressing movement, saying it doesn't care what its players do in the offseason.

"It's certainly not a performance-enhancing drug," Silver said in the Chicago Tribune. "One of the things I've been talking more about in the past several years is mental wellness of our players," Silver said. "Some guys are smoking pot in the same way some guys would take a drink. Just using it to calm down a little bit or using it to relax, no big deal. It's no issue, which is why I think it's been legalized in a lot of states.

Silver went on to say the league should differentiate between those who smoke pot to unwind versus those who binge smoke.

"On the other hand, there's guys in the league who are smoking a lot of pot," Silver said. "Then the question becomes, 'Well, why are you smoking a lot of pot?' And that's where mental wellness comes in. Because I've directly talked to players who say I'm smoking a lot of pot because I have a lot of anxiety and I'm struggling."

Time will tell if baseball's top-to-bottom policy proposal will have a ripple effect into the other leagues.

Smoke Marijuana
A volunteer working for the DCMJ, a Washington group calling for cannabis to be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, takes a break for a smoke after he and friends rolled hundreds and hundreds of marijuana joints on April 13, 2017 in preparation for their April 20th (420) protest that gathers at "High Noon" at the US Capitol calling on legislators to relax marijuana laws. The group, fully expecting arrests and large crowds, will be firing up and giving away free marijuana starting at "High Noon" on April 20th -- 420 -- as they ask the US Congress to have cannabis descheduled from US drug laws. Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)