Joshua Schmidt writes……For something that has been so commonly demonised in popular culture as cannabis, the impact of COVID-19 has reset the thinking on more than one level.

 

Let’s take a look at the treatment of cannabis and cannabis-related crime now that there are bigger issues at play.

 

NBA players won’t be subject to drug testing during the coronavirus-induced season hiatus.[1]

 

Let that sink in for a moment.

 

One of the Big 4 sporting leagues won’t drug test during a league hiatus.

 

Still a banned substance, at least until the World Health Organization (WHO) makes a ruling on cannabis in the near future, and with potential that the league could resume play, exactly what is the thought process around the use of cannabis for athletes? If by some miracle, the NBA season resumes and some form of post-season play occurs; what happens to testing as play starts again? And what are the parameters in which they would be tested? If the season starts again, it is not just regular season fixtures, but rather, championship glory that could be in jeopardy.

 

Let’s think about this for a moment. Is this hiatus a greater indication of the acceptance of cannabis for recreational and therapeutic use, or is the decision reflective of the people’s (and sporting leagues’) uncertainty around the cannabis issue as a whole? In times like this, are we seeing the real perspective and stance on an issue coming to the fore, or are we seeing that cannabis isn’t as bad as ‘reefer madness’ once taught and that there shouldn’t actually be any kind of punishment that comes from its use?

 

Adding weight to this issue is the fact that the newly ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the National Football League (NFL) and NFL Players Association (NFLPA), which has included measures to greatly reduce penalties for, and attempts to track down marijuana users through testing[2], with some owners believing that major changes are coming to the treatment of marijuana consumption as a whole.

 

Whether COVID-19 brings the NFL in line with the NBA or MLB as it relates to cannabis, the barriers are continuing to come down… What was once a firm stance against the use of marijuana in all sports, has seen a line blurred, and the integration and acceptance of cannabis has become more commonplace.

 

Think this notion is specific only to sport? You’d be wrong.

 

According to MarijuanaMoment, a Baltimore, MD prosecutor is moving to dismiss pending charges against people accused of most drug crimes in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.[3]

 

The article goes on to say that “smaller” crimes associated with drugs, and even public urination are offenses that shouldn’t land people in prison, as the influx of these newly incarcerated individuals could expose existing inmates to COVID-19 and hasten the spread among those infected with coronavirus.

 

Approaching the issue of drug arrests, and even prosecution of those arrests in a time of emergency; citing the use of resources and risk to law enforcement professionals and serving inmates, does it not then beg the question about the use of resources to prosecute these crimes from the start?

 

Even some of the most traditionally conservative states have seen a reduction in the prosecution of cannabis-related crimes. Early January saw the Texas announce a reduction in excess of 50% in marijuana related prosecutions[4] since hemp was legalized. Without digging into the legalities around “hot hemp” and specific THC limits per state, the fact that some of the more ardently opposed states are seeing a reduction in prosecutions, but also a reduction in resources required to enact these prosecutions shows that mindsets are indeed changing.

 

Across the globe, there are a number of countries that have decriminalised cannabis, while others have legalized it. Throughout the United States, there are a number of states that have legalized cannabis in recreational and/or medicinal forms, with an entire industry sprouting up around the very thing that was once taboo.

 

Only time will tell the actual figures of the resources and time saved in prosecuting cannabis-related crimes, but in our current reality, it is becoming clearer that more pressing issues, such as COVID-19 can quite rightly, be afforded more attention.

 

When people reach for supplies to stockpile when a threat or emergency is imminent, they often seek out staple items such as water, toilet paper, canned goods and in this instance, hand sanitizer.

 

….And now weed.

 

People are buying bulk quantities to tide themselves over.[5] So if cannabis itself is becoming a staple of sorts, professional sporting leagues are halting testing, and judicial systems are pushing to stop making cannabis-related arrests—are we really able to revert back to the previous testing and enforcement regime when COVID-19 has been and gone?

 

With such sweeping acceptance, and now in dire times of a global pandemic, are we seeing the tipping point for acceptance of the product as a whole?

 

Have the wheels of change just turned again?

 

REFERENCES

[1] https://sports.yahoo.com/sources-nba-players-wont-be-subject-to-drug-testing-during-coronavirus-hiatus-152313981.html

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-poised-to-dramatically-reduce-punishment-for-marijuana-use-and-testing-window-in-new-cba-per-report/

[3] https://www.marijuanamoment.net/baltimore-to-end-most-drug-prosecutions-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/

[4] https://www.texastribune.org/2020/01/03/texas-marijuana-prosecution-drop-testing-hemp/

[5] https://mjbizdaily.com/recreational-cannabis-retailers-sales-surge-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

Contact Joshua

Joshua Schmidt is a New York-based MBA and cannabis entrepreneur who has gained considerable experience working in the Canadian and Australian Cannabis industries, achieving company exit by acquisition in 2018 in Canada, before establishing and managing the intelligence framework for an Australian cannabis company.

joshua.schmidt(at)vinnovatepl.com