Cannabis Use in Pro Sports: Are Sports Leagues Open to CBD?

Cannabis Use in Pro Sports: Are Sports Leagues Open to CBD?

Cannabis has been around for centuries. This plant played an important role in traditional medicine of many cultures, but it was also used for other purposes. Cannabidiol (CBD) is, alongside THC, the most well-known cannabinoid or active compound present in the cannabis plant. A growing body of evidence confirms the amazing potential of CBD to address and successfully contribute to the management of a number of health problems, but its use in sports isn’t widely discussed. Although CBD is not psychoactive and it’s legal, somehow its potential to help athletes is greatly overlooked. It looks like that’s about to change. CBD is gradually stepping into the sports scene.

BIG3 allows CBD

For people who aren’t basketball fans, BIG3 is a 3-on-3 basketball league created by a well-known rapper and actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz. The league was founded in 2017, and it has already gained incredible popularity thanks to popular players who participate in it. What makes BIG3 unique is that the league has announced it would allow the use of CBD. The announcement, published in June, revealed that the league permitted the use of CBD for recovery and pain management.

According to BIG3’s statement, professional athletes who could benefit from the use of CBD were prevented from doing so. They also described current mandates and rules in sports leagues as outdated. This isn’t such a harsh thing to say if we bear in mind that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has already removed CBD from the list of banned substances. Psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, still remains on the list. 

What’s more, BIG3 won’t wait for the next season to implement the new rule like many other leagues do when they introduce some change. The decision goes into effect immediately. This is great news for basketball players who will be able to avoid injuries and support their recovery in a natural and truly effective manner.

CBD in other sports

While BIG3 is the only league, at the moment, that openly allows athletes to use CBD it doesn’t mean cannabis is forbidden entirely in other leagues. Let’s take NHL as an example. While the league has never, actually, announced, they would allow cannabis use many players take it. While the league doesn’t officially condone marijuana, it is not part of their testing for performance-enhancing substances. 

 This gives players a certain degree of liberty to use cannabis including CBD of course. Even when the results show a player uses marijuana his name is not revealed, and he’s not even fined or suspended for it. That being said, high levels of cannabinoids in the body of a player could lead to assessment by doctors working for NHL. Basically, the league doesn’t want its players to use cannabis, but at the same time, they don’t prevent them from doing so to the extent as other leagues do.

In NFL the use of marijuana is banned, but many players are pushing for the change of the archaic rules due to debilitating injuries they suffer. The NBA also bans the use of marijuana, but it looks like they are open for removing medical cannabis from the list. As far as MLB is concerned the situation is kind of complicated. The league has a progressive policy and players aren’t suspended if traces of cannabis are found in their system. That being said, baseball’s minor leagues have a draconian policy where a player faces a ban for up to 50 games for a second failed drug test.

Does CBD really help?

CBD is responsible for a vast majority of health benefits of cannabis. Even though more studies are necessary to learn as much as possible about CBD, current evidence supports the importance of this cannabinoid. 

Why is there an effort to allow athletes to use CBD? 

The BIG3 did a great thing by allowing athletes to use CBD, but it’s safe to say many people wonder why we should let players do it. First, CBD won’t make anyone high, but it can keep them healthier. You see, when athletes (or any other active person) train their body breaks itself down in order to build itself up again. This triggers a response from the immune system which prompts the body to start healing itself, but at the same time athletes feel tired or exhausted. In other words, their muscles get inflamed.

Post-workout inflammation requires proper recovery; otherwise, an athlete would increase injury risk. This is where CBD steps in! Evidence shows CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. At the same time, CBD exhibits analgesic effects, i.e., it alleviates pain. In other words, CBD works to decrease inflammation, strengthen the immune system, and relieve pain to allow athletes to recover after workouts and injuries faster.


It seems like benefits of CBD are endless, yet it is almost like a taboo in sports leagues. Ice Cube’s BIG3 is the first league to allow CBD use, but it’s safe to say other leagues might follow in the future. CBD would be a great tool for athletes to recover more effectively after training sessions and games while injured players would be able to experience a faster recovery too.








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