MLB will stop testing players not on 40-man rosters for marijuana use as part of a still-to-be-finalized drug agreement between the league and Players’ Association, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
While players on 40-man rosters are currently not subject to tests for marijuana, the league still scans and suspends minor league athletes for positive tests. This proposed change, then, would standardize the testing process for pro players at all levels.
Additionally, the drug agreement is expected to specifically address opioid use, aiming to to rehabilitate users rather than punish them. Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died in a hotel room in Southlake, Texas, on July 1, and an autopsy found evidence of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system.
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
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Neither marijuana nor opioids provide a competitive advantage to players, of course, and are thus not categorized the same way as performance enhancing drugs.
Decriminalization of pot in many states around the U.S. as well as shifting policies in other leagues such as the NBA, have set precedent for MLB to loosen its approach to the drug.
Opioids, meanwhile, represent a national addiction crisis. For athletes in particular, painkillers can be a dangerous entry point to substance abuse. As a result, both the Players Association and MLB have publicly voiced support for the drug policy to offer treatment options rather than punishment.
Players Association head Tony Clark said last week that he believed a deal between his union and the league was imminent.