Policing cannabis consumption certainly isn't as much of an issue in the PGA Tour as it is in other professional sports leagues like the NBA or NFL. However, that doesn't mean players are never reprimanded for cannabis use. Just last week, Tour winner Robert Garrigus became the first player to receive a suspension from the PGA Tour under their new regulations. In light of Garrigus' suspension, here's a look at what the PGA Tour's marijuana policies look like.
Why is marijuana banned?
First of all, the PGA Tour considers cannabis a 'drug of abuse,' which puts marijuana in the same company as cocaine, MDMA, PCP, meth and other "recreational drugs that are often times obtained illegally."
The PGA Tour bans all recreational cannabis use, but players can apply for an exemption to use medical marijuana. Historically speaking though, getting a therapeutic use exemption for medical marijuana has been difficult across most professional sporting associations. So applying might be easy, but getting approved is likely much harder.
Despite those bans, the PGA Tour isn't fervently opposed to cannabis. According to the Tour's dug policy documents, the federally illicit nature of cannabis appears to be the driving factor behind the golf group's decision to ban it. The Tour admits that it is unlikely that cannabis would be used as a performance-enhancing substance. However, they say cannabis could be used "to decrease anxiety before a competition," potentially giving players an unfair advantage.
How are golfers screened for cannabis?
Golfers participating in the PGA Tour can be tested for cannabis consumption through blood and urine samples. Testing is performed by Drug Free Sport—the same agency that preforms drug testing for the NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA, LPGA and NASCAR. Testing is done without prior notice, both to players inside and out of competition.
The drug policy documents say the testing threshold should be high enough that players won't be punished for accidental exposure to cannabis. So if you happen to be in the room when someone else is smoking, that wouldn't be enough to be in violation of the drug regulations. However, the Tour does stress that cannabis can be detected in urine and blood samples for quite lengthy periods of time after consuming. So enjoying a joint in the offseason is still a hazard for a pro-golfer's career.
What happens if you fail the cannabis test?
Failing a PGA drug test can result in disqualification from competition, the surrender of any prize money, a fine of up to $500,000 and suspension from the tour. Suspensions range from one year for a first offense, up to five years for a second infraction and a lifetime ban from the tour for a third strike.
While these repercussions certainly are serious, they are also rarely enforced. As previously noted, Garrigus was the first player to be punished since the new rules were put in place a few years ago.