By Neal Mehta
On Thursday, December 12th, Major League Baseball and its players union reached a new agreement on its Joint Drug Policy.
The Joint Drug Policy was adopted in 2006, and it enforced the ban on Schedule One and Two narcotics, including performance enhancing drugs, for players in the MLB. Before the changes, players in possession of marijuana, or those who tested positive for use of marijuana, faced a $35,000 fine per violation.
Now, both parties agree to treat marijuana offenses the same as alcohol related offenses. Players would be required to receive a mandatory evaluation and the option of receiving treatment.Those who are uncooperative with the new standards are subject to disciplinary actions, which include fines and suspensions. Players can also be charged with misconduct related to marijuana by team officials or commissioners.
With the death of Angel’s pitcher Tyler Skaggs, new tests for opioids have been added to the policy. Skaggs was 27 years old when he overdosed on a combination of fentanyl and oxycodone. Police found him dead in his apartment in early July during the regular MLB season. Various sources stated that Skaggs received his opiates from a team official and that other members of the Angels organization were opioid users as well. A combination of these events led the MLB to accelerate its schedule for testing players for opioid use. In addition, the MLB is running a program aimed at informing players about the dangers of opioid use and practical approaches to marijuana use.
These new programs will begin during 2020 spring training. The MLB hopes to prevent any further deaths from the opioid epidemic. Secondly, it hopes to reduce restrictions on marijuana, as sixty-seven percent of Americans support cannabis legalization. Marijuana is now deemed a less serious narcotic than cocaine or methamphetamine.
The MLB is also inspiring other organizations to change their stance on the drug. In 2014, the NFL agreed to reduce its penalty for marijuana offenses. With the MLB’s decision, the NFL is now pressured by its players union to reform their cannabis agreement. In 2018, the NFL reportedly collected $4,000,000 in substance abuse fines, and a large part of this money consisted of small marijuana offenses. The NFL will have to come to a crucial decision on this matter.
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