Major League Baseball and CBD: MLB’s Growing Relationship with Cannabis

Major League Baseball Cannabis Policy

Capping off 2019 on a high note – no pun intended – Major League Baseball and CBD have recently made headlines.

In December, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced significant changes to the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program

These changes include the removal of marijuana – and CBD – from the MLB’s list of banned substances.

In this article we’ll discuss these historical changes and what they mean for Major League Baseball and the entire sports industry.

Cannabis Removed from MLB’s Banned Substance List

The use of natural cannabinoids including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and marijuana will now be permitted in the MLB. 

As a result, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct. Meaning, a player who tests positive only faces the possibility of discipline “in response to certain conduct” involving cannabis.

In addition, a treatment plan with mandatory educational programs will inform players about practical and health-first approaches to marijuana use.

The Skaggs’ Effect

Perhaps the most significant factor to influence these changes is the rapidly growing opioid crisis. 

To cope with physical and mental demands, athletes often turn to painkillers. However, the use of these synthetic drugs can lead to addiction, and sometimes even death. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he believed the opioid overdose and death of 27-year old Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs was a motivating factor to address the issue. 

Adding to that, MLB’s Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem said: “It is our hope that this agreement – which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education – will help protect the health and safety of our Players.”

Major League Baseball and CBD for Players

Instead of opting for pharmaceutical drugs, MLB players can now turn to the healing properties of CBD for pain management and not have to worry about drug testing.

CBD is a 100% all-natural hemp plant extract. Furthermore, its availability to athletes sparks a major change in how they can train, recover and manage injuries.

Here’s why you’ll continue to hear about Major League Baseball and CBD.

The Benefits of CBD for athletes

  • Pain Relief: Cannabis is proven to be a highly effective pain reliever, especially in joint treatment. Because of this, CBD can effectively treat musculoskeletal pain and stiff joints experienced by athletes. 
  • Reduced Inflammation: Athlete’s bodies experience a significant amount of inflammation as a result of repeated stress on their bodies. CBD helps reduce inflammation by balancing the body’s neurotransmitters.
  • Improved Sleep: Studies show that CBD interacts with brain receptors that positively affect the sleep/wake cycle. As a result, CBD can be used as a sleeping aid to promote more restful sleep, and treat insomnia.
  • Stress Relief: With 162 regular season games per season, MLB players face high-pressure situations on a regular basis. CBD helps athletes cope with physical and mental stress. Consequently resulting in positive cardiovascular health, and lower blood pressure.
  • Mental Health: Pharmaceutical drugs are typically prescribed to manage anxiety and depression, however these drugs can cause a number of harmful side effects. That’s why athletes are turning to CBD, as a more organic approach to managing mental health. CBD changes the way the brain responds to serotonin (a chemical in the brain that promotes happiness).
  • Versatility: Athletes can consume CBD in a variety of ways to support individual player preferences – oil, capsules, edibles, topical creams and even sports drinks.

Will the NBA, NFL, and NHL change their cannabis policy?

Given the numerous benefits of CBD, it’s hard to believe other major sports leagues haven’t legalized cannabis yet.

In fact, CBD was legalized by the Olympic Committee’s World Anti-Doping Agency in 2018.

However the ‘big four’ sports leagues – including the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball League (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL) – remain strictly cannabis-free. 

A cultural shift is slowly happening in professional sports though.

MLB’s new drug policy is progressive, especially for a league that has historically been considered ‘old school’. It also sets a precedent for other leagues, by promoting Major League Baseball and CBD use among its players. 

Above all, these changes reflect the evolution of modern medicine, and mark a significant turning point for major league sport.

Hopefully, in 2020, we’ll see all major sports leagues welcome cannabis as a safe alternative for treating their athletes.