How Recreational Marijuana Affects Professional Athletes

bowl of cannabis in dark

Wondering how drug testing for professional athletes is changing along with marijuana laws?

Recreational marijuana is now officially legal in California and a number of other states. How does this affect professional athletes who get drug tested? Are they now allowed to smoke marijuana?

In this handy guide to the issue, we’ll explore those questions and more. Read on to learn what you need to know about marijuana and drug testing for professional athletes.

Are Professional Athletes Allowed to Use Marijuana?

Since recreational marijuana has been legalized in a number of states, including California, Washington, and Colorado, one would think that professional athletes would be allowed to smoke it.


However, generally speaking, they’re still not allowed to. It depends on the sport. But as long as drug testing for professional athletes exists, marijuana is going to show up on the tests, and many leagues don’t allow it.

When Weed Is Allowed for Athletes

The weed-related restrictions from the World Anti-Doping Administration are much looser than they used to be. Olympia athletes can now have as much as 150 nanograms of weed show up on a test.

In fact, professional snowboarders are allowed to smoke weed as long as it’s not within a week of competition. The “chill” sports are more welcoming to weed, it seems.

When Weed Isn’t Allowed for Athletes

On the other hand, most major sports organizations are strictly against marijuana use. The MLB, NBA, NFL, and NCAA all do not permit weed. Even if the team is located in a state with legal recreational weed – or visiting a state to play – the players aren’t allowed to consume cannabis.

The leaders of those organizations claim the rules are strict because they’re keeping players’ safety in mind. However, studies have shown that the “risks” associated with marijuana are mostly overblown.

Athletes probably shouldn’t play when they’re stoned, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to get high while spending time off the field. Let’s take a look at why players would benefit from being allowed to use marijuana.

Athletes and Painkillers

People who play professional sports are literally using their bodies as a way to make money. Over the years, certain sports can be very physically taxing, leading to long-term pain and injuries.

football head injuryAmerican football is the most notorious sport for injuries and long-term effects. NFL players are routinely in intense collisions on the field: it’s part of the game. This results in fractures, sprains, concussions, and more. Because these injuries can be very painful, players are often prescribed narcotic painkillers during recovery. However, these kinds of drugs have the potential for addiction and can be harmful to the body in other ways.

The use of painkillers can extend long after a player retires. However, if players could try weed to manage pain and recovery, instead of prescription narcotics, they could stay safer and healthier in the long run.

What Athletes Think About Weed

There is a great deal of support for weed among athletes.

Most people agree that drug testing for professional athletes is necessary. It’s important to keep the abuse of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs at bay.

It helps players relax, have fun, and manage issues like stress and pain that can be associated with the job.

With that in mind, a number of former NFL players have put together the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition. They promote the idea that NFL athletes should be allowed to use marijuana.

Of course, marijuana isn’t a cure-all for pain and injuries. There are other deep-seated issues in certain sports, especially football, that need to be addressed in order to keep players safe. However, legalizing weed for players would do more good than harm.

Can Marijuana Enhance Performance?

woman smoking cannabis on black background

If weed is legalized for professional athletes, some people are concerned that it will be used to enhance performance. However, there is no evidence to show that weed makes you a better athlete – although a few professional players claim it does.

Some claim that marijuana gives them more focus and concentration during the game, for example. However, weed is known to be associated with delayed relaxation times and lowered alertness. If there are benefits to smoking weed before a game, it seems like the drawbacks balance them out.

The Research on Weed and Athletes

One of the difficulties with making a case for weed and athletes is the fact that there hasn’t been much research on it yet.

Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug for a long time. The move toward legalization is so recent that research hasn’t had a chance to keep up. Weed is still prohibited in many states. And even where marijuana is legal, researchers may still have a hard time conducting studies on weed because of the stigma around it.

Many athletes aren’t willing to put their career on the line in order to participate in studies on weed and sports, making it even harder to research the effect of marijuana on professional sports players.

However, more research is gradually being done, as marijuana becomes legal in more places. The findings of this research are that marijuana is not only harmless – it can actually be helpful in treating issues ranging from PTSD to pain.

This research may someday help sway the heads of professional sports organizations. But it’s also important for players to be on board with the movement.

In professional sports, players hold a lot of power – the game can’t go on without them. The more players come together to make a case for using marijuana; the faster things will change.

The Future of Drug Testing for Professional Athletes

The purpose of drug testing for professional athletes is to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

This is important for the future of sports. However, allowing players to use marijuana, a substance that doesn’t enhance performance, is also important for the future of sports.

Weed can help athletes manage the side effects of playing professional sports more effectively. This can keep them on the field longer, and may even make them better players since they’ll be able to manage medical issues off the field better.

As weed becomes more accepted in society, it seems likely that marijuana won’t be a part of drug testing for professional athletes forever.