MLB and the MLB Players Association are negotiating changes to the drug agreement that would introduce opioid testing. As part of the new drug agreement, MLB would also remove marijuana from the league’s list of banned substances for minor-league players, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Players on the 40-man roster are not tested for marijuana, but non-40-man roster minor leaguers are, and several are suspended for marijuana use each season. There were 13 such suspensions in 2019.
Under the current drug agreement non-40-man roster minor leaguers are suspended 25 games for their first positive test for a “drug of abuse,” 50 games for a second positive test, 100 games for a third positive test, and are banned for life for a fourth positive test. Former Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress is among the notable players suspended three times for marijuana use in the minors.
Drug suspensions equal lost pay and lost opportunity, two things of paramount importance to minor leaguers. Marijuana is a recreational drug, not a performance-enhancer, and more states are voting to legalize marijuana seemingly every year. The MLBPA doesn’t do much for non-40-man roster players, but getting marijuana removed from the banned substance list is significant.
The changes in the drug policy to include opioid testing come after the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs earlier this year. . Under the new program, players who test positive for opioids would be put into a treatment program rather than suspended.
It should be noted MLB and the MLBPA have not finalized a revised drug agreement that includes opioid testing or eliminates testing for marijuana in the minors just yet. MLBPA chief Tony Clark recently said he is optimistic the two sides can have an agreement in place before the end of the year.