How Does the NHL Deal with CBD & Players Who Use It?

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Professional sports leagues in the United States have long had different ways of handling drug abuse. In recent times, it seems possible that they will approach the issue in a more unified way. The NFL recently removed marijuana from its list of banned drugs, and the MLB also took it off its Drugs of Abuse list.

In both cases, it means that players won’t get banned if they are caught using cannabis for the first time. However, they must agree to participate in a treatment program. You’ll need Microsoft azure certification to continue.

Things are a little different with CBD. In theory, using it is considered the same as consuming THC from marijuana. The big difference is that drug screenings don’t look for CBD. Instead, they check for THC metabolites. As a result, players can use a PureKana CBD vape pen and shouldn’t have any testing issues in theory. This is because the vape juice contains minimal THC. Of course, CBD brands are unable to make guarantees.

Cannabis use isn’t legal in baseball or American Football but is tolerated. What is the situation in the NHL?

Straightforward & Common Sense – The NHL Way

It transpires that the NHL hasn’t adopted a huge change in cannabis policy like the NFL. The National Hockey League has always had a lenient and tolerant approach to marijuana and CBD.

There are no rules that expressly forbid the use of cannabis in the NHL. The league tests for the substance, but when a player tests positive, they don’t have to worry about a lengthy ban. The NHL’s Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) is about keeping a player’s problems out of the spotlight. Rather than punishing offenders, the league wants to find and help them before things get out of hand.

What is remarkable about the program was that the NHL introduced it in 1996. The world was a very different place regarding cannabis back then. California became the very first state to allow medical marijuana. At that time, there was zero tolerance for cannabis in society or sports. However, the NHL bucked the trend and focused on compassion rather than punishment.

How the NHL Approaches Marijuana Use

Again, it is important to stress that cannabis use is not legal in the NHL. If a player tests positive for the substance, the league will intervene to see if the individual needs help.

What’s interesting is that the league doesn’t have a specific threshold outlining whether someone has passed or failed a drug test. Instead, it uses its discretion to determine if it needs to get involved.

Also, the result of a positive test gets sent anonymously to the NHL/NHLPA committee. The player receives a mandatory assessment by a medical professional.

The NHL’s testing procedure is also lax compared to other sports leagues. Players can expect to get tested once during training camp without notice. They must also be subject to a random, no-notice test once during the season. In the playoffs, only a maximum of 60 players are randomly tested. The NHL or NHLPA may also request a drug test if they have reasonable cause for thinking a player uses an illegal substance.

Since July 2016, every urinalysis is screened for all possible drugs of abuse. The main reason for the change was the rising number of players who tested positive for cocaine.

Understanding & Assistance

If a player tests positive for a drug of abuse for the first time, he will not be punished. However, the player’s right to privacy gets waived if his test produces abnormally high amounts of THC. Two doctors get in touch with the player and recommend that he enters the SABH program. There, the medical professionals will devise a special treatment plan. Neither the NHL nor the NHLPA is required to know about it.

As long as the player agrees to join the SABH program, he won’t receive a penalty. However, the league will mete out fines, suspensions, and other penalties if players refuse, or else they breach the program’s conditions.

It is a refreshing approach and one borne out of common sense. Over 90% of cities with an NHL franchise are in states with MMJ at the very least. Almost half of the cities live in areas where recreational cannabis is permitted. CBD use is tolerated in virtually every NHL team city.

By not forcing players underground, the NHL can give them the necessary help. This is the case whether someone is using cannabis, cocaine, heroin, or opioids. Indeed, there is evidence that CBD could help reduce a person’s dependence on opioids.

There was a study published in Postgraduate Medicine in 2020 that looked at the use of CBD hemp extract amongst patients who consume opioids. The researchers found that over half of patients reduced their opioid usage after eight weeks of regular CBD consumption. Interestingly, 94% of CBD users also reported quality of life improvements.

The NHL’s approach to cannabis and CBD is sensible and welcome. Hopefully, sports leagues across the United States and the world follow suit.

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Blogging since 2011. Founder of, founded in 2012. From the beautiful Upper Peninsula. Real name is Trevor Uren.

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