Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reportedly agreed to a major detail in their on-going drug agreement negotiations.
According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the league has agreed to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers.
As part of a new agreement on opioids being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, MLB will remove marijuana from the list of banned substances for minor leaguers, sources tell The Athletic. Major leaguers have not been subject to testing for marijuana.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2019
As Rosenthal notes in his report, major league players are not currently tested for marijuana. That means marijuana would effectively be legalized across baseball.
Prospective changes to the drug policy have been fueled by the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. The 27-year-old pitcher was found to have two different opioids in his system when he was found in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1. Under the new program, players who test positive for opioids would be put into a treatment program rather than suspended.
It’s important to note that a revised drug agreement has not been finalized by MLB and the MLBPA, but the reported removal of marijuana from baseball's drug testing is seen as a forward-thinking move.
Though the drug remains illegal at the federal level, many states have voted to legalize it. If finalized, baseball would be the first major sport to stop testing for marijuana. The prevailing thought is that marijuana is a safe alternative to opioids, which can become addictive and are currently at the center of a major epidemic.
Marijuana has helped many players with their recovery from injuries and in dealing with daily aches and pains associated with a six-month baseball season. Some might argue those benefits make marijuana a performance enhancer. Others believe its impact would be a positive for baseball if legalized across the board.
Under the current system, minor league players who tested positive for marijuana face suspensions of 25, 50 and 100 respectively for first, second and third positive tests. A fourth positive test results in a lifetime ban. Any suspension for a minor league player results in a loss of income. Given the meager salaries many are paid at that level, any loss of income is devastating.
The potential elimination of marijuana testing is a big development on many levels. Perhaps most importantly, it would allow players to be open and honest about their usage. That would allow teams to monitor their usage and be better aware of a bigger issue.
There’s no word on when the new drug agreement will be reached, but it appears everything is moving in a positive direction.
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