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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The public perception of marijuana is changing, and with more and more athletes accepting the idea of cannabis as medicine, professional sports leagues — and their drug policies — are being put under the microscope.

Why it matters: Of the 123 teams across the four major sports, 45 play in states or provinces where recreational marijuana is legal (36.6%), and another 56 play in jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal (45.5%), per ESPN.

  • That's 82% of teams (101 of 123) that play in areas where players can legally buy pot — and that number will only increase as more states move forward with legalization.

What's happening: In the the face of this dramatic shift, some leagues — worried about what "endorsing weed" might do to their image — are hesitant to change their marijuana policies. Others, like the NHL, are completely rethinking their approach.

NFL policy: 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 policy: 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.

MLB policy: 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," writes ESPN's Emily Kaplan.

And then theres' the NHL, which 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.

  • If a player has "abnormally high levels" of THC, league physicians will flag it and recommend treatment. But again, there's no punishment — and neither the NHL nor the NHLPA needs to know about it.

What they're saying:

"We are elite athletes and as long as it's not performance-enhancing or illegal, we know what's best for our own bodies. I find that a couple hits of weed at night is good for me. It's legal, it's natural, I don't see anything wrong with it."
— Anonymous NHL player (via ESPN)

What's next: "The NFL's CBA expires after the 2020 season, and it's believed the drug policy will be a major discussion point," writes Kaplan.

  • "The NFLPA probably will argue for something similar to the NHL's policy — test for marijuana, but don't punish it — and it will be worth monitoring if the NFL agrees."

P.S. ... Suspended Cowboys DT David Irving quit the NFL yesterday — while smoking a blunt.

Go deeper: Marijuana and sports betting could shine in 2019

Go deeper

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.

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