How Will Marijuana affect sports teams?

What Does Marijuana Legalization Mean for Canadian Sports Teams?

With marijuana now legal and even easier to access, people across the country have wondered how it will affect various aspects of their lives and the nation at large. This week, we’re turning our attention to the world of sports and how the legalization of cannabis in Canada may affect Canadian sports teams and athletes.

Will Marijuana Legalization Change Sports League Rules?

Athletes curious as to whether the end of prohibition in Canada would lead to more lax rules regarding marijuana in their leagues have so far been disappointed. To date, no sports leagues have changed their rules regarding marijuana.


With 7 Canadian teams, the National Hockey League features the largest Canadian contingency of the Canadian-US sports leagues; however, the organization has no plans to alter their marijuana policy.

Glen Healy, executive director of the NHL Alumni Association, says he is “all-in” on cannabis research:

“Science has to prove it first. If science proves it, then I’ll endorse it, but it’s got to be science first. It can’t be me first. We need science first, and if we get that first and it helps our players then we move on.” -Glen Healy

With some of the league’s teams in the US in marijuana-friendly states and with Canada’s medical marijuana program, the NHL has already had to determine how it will handle drug testing.

As it stands, the goal of the NHL drug policy is to educate rather than punish, making it one of the most lenient programs. If a player tests positive for marijuana, they will likely be referred to treatment.


The Canadian Football League, which features only Canadian teams, doesn’t currently test for marijuana use, however, the CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports) continues to do so. It views marijuana as a prohibited substance in sports, despite legalization. More medical research into the benefits of marijuana may help ease these regulations and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has shared that he’s open to learning more about it.


Current NBA rules require regular drug tests and a treatment program for players found to be under the influence of marijuana. While former NBA commissioner David Stern has called for more lenient marijuana policies in the league, there are no current plans to change the rules. As it stands, the league is mostly concerned with whether players are impaired on the court and little attention is paid to whether they enjoy marijuana in their free time.


Baseball fans probably won’t be surprised that the MLB has no plans to change their current drug rules. After facing many drug scandals, the league is unlikely to revisit its current testing regiment, though it only tests for cause. In addition, with only one Canadian team in the league, there’s little incentive for the MLB to change its marijuana rules.


Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League have 5 Canadian teams between them, however, there are no plans in place for amending current marijuana policies and random drug testing will continue.

Across the board, the current marijuana sports rules mean that while Canadians and visitors to Canada can lawfully enjoy marijuana within the country’s borders, most athletes may still be subjected to drug testing and sanctions. Athletes will need to petition their leagues for rule changes in order to safely enjoy marijuana without the threat of suspension.

Will Athlete’s Marijuana Use Increase with Legalization?

Some athletes have been very open about their use of marijuana. They state that it helps them recover more quickly from grueling practice sessions, works to ease their pain from sports injuries, and allows them to relax.

Because athletes are bound by their contracts, there is no reason to believe that the manner in which they use drugs like cannabis will change—at least until their leagues change their rules. Those who currently use marijuana for its medical properties will likely continue to do so and those who enjoy recreational marijuana will also likely continue to enjoy it. However, with more lenient organizations like the NHL, it may be possible that medical marijuana, which does not carry with it the addictive qualities of opium, will become more popular for treating sports injuries and persistent pain.

Will Marijuana Be Allowed at Sports Games?

Avid sports fans who enjoy watching their favorite teams from the stands may wonder whether marijuana use will be allowed at sporting events. After all, many Canadian provinces are treating marijuana similarly to alcohol, which is readily available at games across the country.

At the time of writing, smoking or vaping marijuana is not allowed indoors in places such as arenas or ice rinks. Sporting events are open to people of all ages, meaning there’s the chance that younger Canadians may be in attendance. With the Cannabis Act’s focus on protecting youth from cannabis smoke, it is unlikely that this will change for events featuring audiences of varying ages.

For the latest information regarding where you can enjoy cannabis products, be sure to check with your province’s regulating agency.