Sports & Fitness

The pot playbook: How different sports leagues in the U.S. deal with marijuana testing

NFL

Players are tested once in the offseason from mid-April to mid-August. Players test positive if found to have 35 nanograms of extracted THC per milliliter of urine. Players must enter an intervention program after one violation. Penalties increase with more violations: from a two-game fine to a 10-game ban for a fifth infraction.

NBA

Players are subject to four random drug screens during the season, but the league doesn’t test for marijuana in the offseason. The league’s threshold of 15 ng/ml is among the strictest, but not its punishment structure. Players must complete a substance-abuse program after their first infraction. Violators face a $25,000 fine for a second positive test. The third violation leads to a five-game ban. Five more games are added on for each positive test thereafter.

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MLB

The league has a threshold of 50 ng/ml but tests players only if MLB or union officials have reasonable cause. Under the joint drug prevention and treatment program, players who don’t comply with a treatment plan are subject to progressive fines up to $35,000 for one violation. Players could be suspended if they “flagrantly disregard” rules or if the commissioner determines they are a threat to other players’ safety. The policy states discipline at this stage is up to the commissioner.

NHL

Marijuana is not on the list of banned substances. Players undergo limited testing for drugs of abuse to monitor their use. Players must enter the league’s substance abuse program after multiple failed tests, but the program is not punitive.

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Olympics (World Anti-Doping Agency)

WADA has set a high threshold of 150 ng/ml for a positive test for cannabis. Violators face suspensions ranging from three months to one year.

MLS

The league doesn’t publicly list its threshold limits for positive tests, but an MLS official said it follows WADA guidelines for marijuana: 150 ng/ml.  MLS conducts unannounced testing for all prohibited substances. The league doesn’t have a set number of tests per year for any player.

NCAA

Perhaps the strictest policy in sports, collegians test positive for marijuana at 5 ng/ml. But the NCAA doesn’t have a uniform policy, and the organization and member schools have been easing punishment for those who are caught.