Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced that it will remove marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” list and start testing players for opioids as part of its updated drug program.
In a news release on Thursday, the MLB and the Players Association said that moving forward, they will be testing players for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC, along with the other substances listed under “drugs of abuse,” but will be removing marijuana from the list.
The list also includes banned substances and drugs classified as Schedule I or Schedule II under federal law.
If tested positive, players will be referred to a treatment board of medical professionals who will prescribe a treatment plan. The league and players union will impose disciplinary action on those who refuse an evaluation or don’t cooperate with the prescribed treatment.
The news release also emphasized that under the new program, natural cannabinoids like THC, CBD and marijuana will be removed from the list of “drugs of abuse” but marijuana-related conduct will be treated like alcohol-related conduct and subject to a treatment program that includes mandatory evaluation and voluntary treatment.
The introduction of opioid testing in the MLB follows the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs on July 1. An autopsy released in August indicated that Skaggs died from choking on vomit after using drugs and alcohol and that there were high levels of opioids were found in his system, including fentanyl, oxycodone and oxymorphone.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said: “I think they made an agreement that is realistic in terms of how you handle people with opioid problems, and I think it will be an improvement for the industry going forward.”
Dan Halem, MLB’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer, added: “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.”