Is the NHL’s marijuana policy the model of the future? The NFL’s CBA expires after the 2020 season, and it’s believed the drug policy will be a major discussion point. The NFLPA probably will argue for something similar to the NHL’s policy — test for marijuana, but don’t punish it — and it will be worth monitoring if the NFL agrees. The NBA and NBPA have had ongoing discussions about their marijuana policy, with commissioner Adam Silver seemingly open to reform, being quoted several times as saying, “We should follow the science.”
There are potential pitfalls to the NHL’s policy. The league’s lax attitude on marijuana is one thing. However, some have raised concerns about the same loose attitude toward other drugs of abuse. If the NHL really had concern about a cocaine problem in the league, does this policy do anything to help? What about prescription pills? One veteran NHL agent raised this point, while noting entry into the SABH is voluntary. Though the appointed doctors can highly encourage a player to enter the program, the player ultimately has the ability to say no and refuse treatment.
“It hurts to say this, because I am always on the players’ side and advocating for players, and I would never advocate for a situation for a team to increase the ability to discipline a player, but there are a lot of players who act recklessly,” the agent says. “I think cocaine is still a huge problem in the league. I think there are other drugs that players are abusing. If it was known the league was testing and punishing for cocaine, levels of Ambien, Adderall and a whole list of other list of drugs that get abused, I think you would naturally have players cutting down on it. Unless players face a suspension or loss of pay, what would get their attention?”
Which brings us back to Player X. “I think it comes down to this — we are elite athletes and as long as it’s not performance-enhancing or illegal, we know what’s best for our own bodies,” he says. “I find that a couple hits of weed at night is good for me. It’s legal, it’s natural, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”