According to ESPN, in 2015, the MLB performed about 8,158 drug tests over the whole year. The MLB is notorious for testing their players for performance enhancing drugs(PEDs). All the way back to the Barry Bonds steroid scandal, the MLB has tightened their reign on PEDs and illegal drugs. While performance enhancing drugs are still a major focus of the MLB, they are also focusing in on another illegal substance: marijuana.
The MLB was one of the first professional sports to deal openly with marijuana. Back in the day, the MLB’s marijuana violations were a lot stricter. Since 2002, when the MLB and the Player’s Union came to their first Joint Drug Agreement, the MLB has taken a lighter approach to handle marijuana use.
The main focus of the MLB’s drug policy is on performance enhancing drugs and not marijuana. While the MLB has said very little about the use of medical marijuana, their openness is still apparent.
The MLB’s Stance
It is tough to find an actual statement from the MLB about marijuana. They have taken a very open-minded approach to marijuana use and their players. At no point in time have they chosen a side on this issue, but they seem to be moving in the right direction. In 2002, the MLB sat down with the Player’s Union and came up with their first Drug Agreement. This agreement was an overall stricter approach toward PED’s and other illegal drugs – marijuana use was not a point of focus.
In fact, the Joint Drug Agreement does not require MLB players to participate in mandatory random drug testing. It does not mean there are no punishments, but it is unlikely for a player to receive any suspension unless that player’s drug abuse is deemed an issue of safety and health.
Typically, if an MLB player tests positive for marijuana, then he would likely face some fines. The highest fine that a player can receive is about $35,000 each offense. It is also common to see a player be admitted into MLB’s drug treatment program.
The main reason the MLB takes such a light stance towards marijuana is that the Player’s Union protects those who are actually on the professional ball rosters. The Joint Drug Agreement that the MLB and the Player’s Union signed does not have anything to do with the drug policy in the Minor Leagues. This means that the MLB can put in place whatever drug policies they would like for minor league players.
Tougher Drug Policy in the Minor Leagues
The MLB takes a very different approach towards dealing with marijuana in the minor leagues. Most people would think that MLB would not be nearly as strict on their minor league players than the professional players. That is not the case. The Minor Leagues are actually put through much more rigorous drug testings. They are tested more frequently and have stronger penalties for the use of illegal drugs.
Alex Reyes, a pitching prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, was suspended for 50 games after his second offense. Tim Lincecum, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, saw much lighter penalties. This is a drastic difference considering the Minor League leads up to the Majors. It is weird that the professionals would be held to a different standard. However, the cause of this is a direct correlation to the Major League players having a union agreement and the Minor League players do not.
As a Minor League Baseball Player, you are on the road for a majority of the season and getting paid a very little monthly wage. This level of baseball asks a lot out of its players. It is an extremely competitive road to the MLB, and they make sure that only the best get there. This is part of the reason why the Minors have such strict drug use policies. They make the players put in their work before they can kick back. It is understandable, but the intensity of the penalties is very detrimental to the player’s careers.
The policy for testing positive for marijuana use is as follows:
– First Offense: Admitted into a Drug Rehabilitation Program
– Second Offense: 50 Game Suspension
– Third Offense: 100 Game Suspension
– Fourth Offense: Banned from the League
These penalties can drastically affect a player’s career, especially if they are trying to make it to the top. Missing just a few games can take you out of the rotation, and that could be the end of it. This is why people are beginning to question such harsh rules.
Medical marijuana is slowly spreading throughout the nation. The MLB is being questioned more and more for their strict penalties for marijuana in the Minor League.
The Problem of Pain Killers
A big problem in professional sports is all of the pain killers prescribed for player injuries. Medical marijuana has the potential of being a very effective alternative to pain killers. Marijuana is not nearly as addictive as opiate pain killers and has very little to no found side effects.
Natural terpenes in medical marijuana has also been found to be a great anti-inflammatory. In the MLB, the constant action of throwing a ball puts a lot of stress on player’s arms and shoulders. This stress can cause a lot of swelling, which if not treated properly can lead to serious injuries over time. Cannabis would be a great alternative to use for pitchers after starting a game.
The MLB does not seem to be in any hurry to change their most updated version of the Joint Drug Agreement. Both sides seem to be happy with the current drug policies. Well, except the Minor Leaguers. Not that any player has spoken out for change, but it is starting to be questioned amongst fans.
As medical marijuana continues to spread, it is likely that we see a change in drug policies towards marijuana use. Otherwise, smoking cannabis will just have to become another perk of making it to the Major Leagues!
Author: Justice Council