After the passage of the Cannabis Act this summer, recreational marijuana usage will officially become legal across Canada starting tomorrow – Wednesday, October 17.
Cannabis products will become legal for adult usage in seven NHL cities, even though marijuana remains a banned substance for NHL players.
Marijuana usage is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency – the foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada.
The only exception to that ban is for “specific therapeutic use” of medical marijuana, which is a designation that will likely be tested in the coming months.
With legalization nearly here, officials, players, and fans have weighed in on the potential risks and benefits of marijuana.
Former pro player Riley Cote, who retired from the NHL in 2010, has come out as a strong advocate
for cannabis use in a statement to AP News.
“I started noticing some therapeutic benefits,” Cote said. “It helped me sleep, helped with my anxiety and general well-being.”
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid also weighed in with this statement:
“I say this more talking about the CBD side of it, obviously: you’d be stupid not to at least look into it. When your body’s sore like it is sometimes, you don’t want to be taking pain stuff and taking Advil all the time. There’s obviously better ways to do it. You’re seeing a lot of really smart doctors look into it. If all the boxes are checked there and it’s safe and everything like that, then I think you would maybe hear them out.”
Joint drug-testing policies are agreed on between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, with drug testing to continue as normal. Under the current policy, however, players are not actually punished for positive results on marijuana tests even though the substance is technically banned.
The arrival of legalization isn’t expected to change the ban or have an effect on the lack of player punishments. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman commented:
“The Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health Program for decades has been educating players on using drugs, legal or illegal. That process will continue and we will consider what changes, if any, in our program have to be made. But right now, we think based on the educational level and what we do test for and how we test, at least for the time being, we’re comfortable with where we are.”
Marijuana rules in the NHL are notably different from other professional sports organizations, and will likely remain so even after legalization.
Players on the Toronto Raptors NBA team, for instance, can be fined $25,000 and suspended for five games after multiple positive marijuana tests.
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