Golf News Magazine January 2020

Page 42


Smoke a Drive, Not a Doobie: Tour’s Marijuana Policies Need a Scoring Revision By Judd Spicer In November of 2019, an annual, anonymous survey of PGA Tour players by a leading outlet (GOLF Magazine) surveyed 52 players at an autumn tour stop and revealed, among a host of findings, that 20 percent (close to a dozen) said they had either smoked pot or ingested marijuana edibles in the past year. Additionally, more than half the players surveyed said marijuana should be removed from the Tour’s banned substances list. Tour Player Banned For Cannabis Use The query was an especially-timely one considering that, a month prior two-time tour winner Matt Every received a threemonth suspension for violating the PGA Tour’s conduct policy on drugs of abuse after testing positive for cannabis. While the Tour didn’t specify Every’s substance usage, the golfer clarified the penalty in his own, candid statement provided to “I tested positive for cannabis, a drug I do not abuse and a drug I have a legal prescription for in the state of Florida. I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years. “It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription ‘Z’ class drugs nor benzodiazepines. Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.” NHL’s More Sane Approach The PGA Tour has been drug testing since 2008 and, in late 2017, revised its Anti-Doping measures with the introduction of blood testing, along with implementing a prohibited substances list, which employs the substances and methods used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Major League Soccer also works under WADA’s Prohibited and Banned list, while, according to and research performed by, other sporting leagues across the U.S. employ these respective testing policies and punishments pertaining to marijuana: •

NFL – “Players with no previous violations are tested just once in the offseason. During the regular season, 10 players per team are randomly selected each week.” Punishment: 1st positive test: Enter substance abuse program. 2nd: Fined two game checks. 3rd: Fined four game checks. 4th: Four-game suspension. 5th: 10-game suspension. 6th: Banned for a year. NBA – “No offseason tests. During the regular season, players are subject to four random tests. Punishment: 1st positive test: Enter substance abuse program. 2nd: $25,000 fine. 3rd: Five-game suspension, and five more games are added to each ensuing positive test.

42 Golf News Magazine | January 2020

MLB – “Use of marijuana is prohibited, but the league only tests for it if they have ‘reasonable cause’ to do so.” Punishment: If a player tests positive, he might be subject to a treatment plan that can include progressive fines of up to $35,000 for one test,» noted ESPN. NHL – “. . . doesn’t punish players who test positive for marijuana (which it no longer classifies as a banned substance). Instead, the league focuses on identifying those who need help and ensuring that they get it.”

Surprise! All Testing Done Without Prior Notice The PGA Tour tests players via blood and urine samples, both inside and beyond the ropes of competition; all testing is done without prior notice to the players. Since testing began 11-plus years ago, eight Tour players have been reported for positive drug tests, including suspensions for performance-enhancers, a banned weight-loss product, and one testing declination. That list also includes Vijay Singh, whose announced suspension in 2013 for use of deer antler spray (which contains a natural growth hormone) was later rescinded, as WADA removed said substance from its banned list. After years of legal dispute, Singh was awarded damages in late 2018. Sport and Smoke As you’ll no doubt note among these pages – and other leading golf publications across the country – CBD products (short for cannabidiol) and advertisements are becoming as commonplace in golf as carts, clubs, and apparel. Just so you know: Industrial hemp products – made federally legal in 2018 – include CBD as a derivative. Hemp and marijuana are cousins of the cannabis sativa family; the former (hemp) contains a federal limit of 0.3 percent THC, the plant’s psychoactive element, which is to say CBD products won’t get you high. Marijuana, of course, will result in a buzz, though, per Matt Every’s words – Mary Jane has a host of other potential benefits as well. PGA Tour’s “Excuse” For Banning Pot And while the PGA Tour acknowledges that while marijuana use is not a performance enhancer, its stances for including marijuana on its banned list basically notes that decreasing anxiety is an enhancement byproduct, and involvement with federally-illegal substances goes against the spirit of the sport. Sound kinda’ lame? It is. Majority of States Have Legalized Cannabis Heading into 2020, marijuana is now legal (including medical usage) in some form across the U.S. including 33 states and the District of Columbia; that number includes 11 states, along with the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

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