MLB and the MLB Players Association on Thursday announced changes to the Joint Drug Program. Most notably, testing for opioids is now in place, and marijuana has been removed from the league's list of banned substances for minor-league players. Players on the 40-man roster are not tested for marijuana, but non-40-man roster minor leaguers have been, and several have suspended for marijuana use each season. There were 13 such suspensions in 2019.
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. Here are the details on this new aspect of the program:
"All samples collected under the Program will now be tested for the presence of Opioids, Fentanyl, Cocaine, and Synthetic THC (among other Drugs of Abuse). Any Player who tests positive for one of these Drugs of Abuse will be referred to the Parties' Joint Treatment Board (composed of medical professionals specializing in substance abuse and representatives from the Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association) for an initial evaluation and, if appropriate, formulation of a personalized treatment plan for that Player going forward. Only Players who fail to cooperate with their initial evaluation or prescribed treatment plan may be subject to discipline."
As well, mandatory educational programs on the dangers of opioid abuse are now mandatory for teams and players.
"Players are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding our drug-testing regimen to include opioids, and want to take a leadership role in helping to resolve this national epidemic," MLBPA head Tony Clark said in a statement released by the league and union.