A slow night in transactional and hot stove-related news allows for a closer reading of the previous week’s industry news, and a Wednesday piece from the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin is certainly deserving of a look, for those who missed it upon publication. In the shadow of the tragic passing of pitcher Tyler Skaggs from an opioid-related overdose, the league and the MLBPA are, according to Shaikin, discussing changes to the sport’s drug policy that could include loosened restrictions on the use of marijuana (link).
We had previously heard that the two parties were already in evaluating the potential implementation of routine opioid testing for all players, with deputy commissioner Dan Halem going so far as to say that the league would “absolutely” like to add said testing in advance of the 2020 season. The idea of adding opioid testing while relaxing marijuana restrictions is not seen as a strict quid pro quo bargain, per Shaikin’s sources, but the reporter did speak with former major leaguer Kyle Blanks, who admitted to using alcohol, marijuana, and opioids during his playing career in an effort to manage pain. It stands to reason that the league and union, then, might be seeking to discourage players resorting to the deadly allure of opioid use–even if it means more players potentially using cannabis as a palliative.
As it stands, baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program stipulates that testing for Drugs of Abuse be conducted on a basis of reasonable cause–meaning, essentially, that players are not tested on a routine basis for cannabinoids. Whether, then, a truly impactful change to the Program is forthcoming is unclear; it’s quite possible that the two sides are discussing the removal of cannabinoids from the “Drugs of Abuse” classification, although such a move would likely be symbolic in nature. While 2019 saw seven players suspended for PED use, no major leaguers were suspended this season for violating the sport’s policy in regard to marijuana use, specifically.