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Mary at the bat: Major league baseball players who opened up about cannabis use

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The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the cannabis-enthusiasts of Major League Baseball for many seasons. Though former players said there were “a lot” of users at the bat (Dirk Hayhurst called it a “Cheech and Chong experiment,”) being caught with cannabis was once penalized with mandatory treatment or a fine of up to $35,000.

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All that changed at the end of 2019, though, when MLB removed cannabis from their banned substances list. Now, cannabis is treated like alcohol according to the league’s regulations – show up to MLB games, practices, workouts, or meetings high, and you’ll face consequences. But otherwise, as long as they are using it in compliance with local law, players can use cannabis. And the league is even working with a product-testing organization called NSF International to verify legal, contaminant-free CBD products that players could one day use for medicinal purposes.

Last year’s season was cut short by COVID-19, so this is the first full baseball season since the cannabis-enthusiasts of major league baseball have been free to light up. To celebrate, we’re spotlighting three cannabis-loving former MLB players who have talked about using weed while playing professionally, and whose legacies might well have played a role in new MLB pot policy.

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

1. Ryan Tucker

After he dropped out of MLB because of knee problems, opening a cannabis dispensary and greenhouse in southern California wasn’t a next step anyone expected from this Florida Marlins pitcher. But for Tucker, it was a seamless transition.

Tucker told Leafly cannabis use is almost commonplace in professional baseball,

“When you’re on the [major league] roster, you can use cannabis,” he told Leafly, “and a lot of people do, openly.”

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That’s not so much the case for minor league players. When he was playing in the minors, Tucker said he steered clear of cannabis use. Minor league baseball players face random drug testing, while major leaguers pretty much only faced pre-draft tests, even before MLB announced its new pot policy. So, if you could tell the time and had a few brain cells, you could essentially use cannabis as much as you wanted once you made it into the bigs. That’s why you mostly hear of NFL players getting suspended for cannabis, not MLB.

Tucker says cannabis helped him cope with the pressure of professional sports, as well as the adjustment of quitting a game that had become all-consuming for him. He told Leafly “I got into the cannabis industry because it saved my life.”

Today, Tucker holds commercial cannabis licenses in Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, and Adelanto, and continues to advocate for the medicinal power of the plant.

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

2. Dirk Hayhurst

Expressing similar sentiments to Ryan Tucker, Hayhurst noticed a stark difference in the way cannabis was treated in minor league baseball compared to the bigs.

The former San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher (now author) once told CBS sports,

“It’s like a Cheech and Chong experiment up there. You can smoke so much pot. And baseball really knows that its players smoke a lot of marijuana. It honestly does. It pretends that it doesn’t.”

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Hayhurst said the enforcement of cannabis policy in MLB was so bad that some players were promoted just to avoid the random drug tests in the minor leagues. There’s no solid data to back this up, but combined with Ryan Tucker’s testament, it seems it was high time MLB cannabis policy became consistent with what they practiced.

(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

3. Tim Lincecum

This former San Francisco Giants pitcher became a sort of poster child for cannabis use in sports when he was pulled over for speeding in 2009, and the cop smelled weed in his car. Lincecum paid a fine for what was assessed as a civil infraction, but was never punished by MLB.

Lincecum would go on to help the Giants win three World Series championships, cheered on by fans wearing T-shirts reading “Let Timmy Smoke.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Giants would overlook top players using weed. In 2015, Phil Bickford tested positive for THC in pre-draft drug testing and was still the Giant’s first round pick in that year’s draft. But that’s hardly surprising when, for a large swath of their fan base, blazing up before the game is a matter of course.

Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to elli.esher@hearst.com.