Major League Baseball has announced major changes to its joint drug agreement with the players' association that will modernize the league's drug testing program. The sweeping changes reflect the changing national attitudes towards and issues with certain drugs.
The news making the most headlines is the league beginning to test for opioids and cocaine. But perhaps as significant is the league's changing view on marijuana. The drug will no longer be considered a "drug of abuse." It will now be treated the same way as alcohol as part of the program's changes. Significantly, there will no longer be suspensions for marijuana use in the minor league testing program.
The move by several states to legalize marijuana factored heavily into the changes made. MLB will put players and team staff through mandatory educational programs in 2020 and 2021 related to the dangers of opioid use and "practical approaches to marijuana."
Players' union head Tony Clark said the following about the change in the marijuana rules, "It was a part of a larger conversation that was reflective of the attitudes changing in many parts of the country."
It's a big step for Major League Baseball to make and it will be interesting if other leagues follow suit in the near future.
The new agreement will create testing for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC. Under the agreement, players who test positive will be referred to the treatment board. Previously, the MLB had limited drug testing to performance-enhancing substances and banned stimulants.
With the new testing protocols for drugs of abuse, only players who do not cooperate with their treatment plans will be disciplined. The death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was a big part of the push for the changing attitude on opioids.