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Reefer Madness, But in a Good Way -The NCAA Raises the Allowable THC Limit for College Athletes


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National Collegiate Athletics Association Will Be Relaxing Marijuana Drug Testing Policies For Student Athletes

Pot No Longer Seen As A Performance-Enhancing Drug

Late last February, the National Collegiate Athletics Association announced that they would be relaxing their cannabis drug testing policy for student athletes.

During their meeting, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) decided that the positive drug screen result threshold would be increased from 35 nanograms per milliliter to 150 nanograms per milliliter of THC. These changes were made effective immediately.


“Reconsidering the NCAA approach to cannabis testing and management is consistent with feedback from membership on how to better support and educate student-athletes in a society with rapidly evolving public health and cultural views regarding cannabis use,” said Brian Hainline, chief medical officer for the NCAA, in a press release.


“Marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing substance, but it remains important for member schools to engage student-athletes regarding substance use prevention and provide management and support when appropriate,” Hainline says.


Applications To NCAA Divisions

The NCAA has three divisions in over 1,000 schools around the United States, and the committee’s recommendations aren’t binding. However, they urged all divisions to adapt to the recommendations respectively.

Their decision is proof that American sports are already seriously considering the impacts of cannabis use on athletes, and adapting to be relevant to changing laws as well as attitudes around the country.


If a student athlete tests positive for THC on the first test, the CSMAS recommends that they shouldn’t be at risk of losing their eligibility status if “the school provides a management plan and education for the student-athlete.” This will also be applicable for the second positive test, but there will be penalties if the athlete didn’t comply with the recommendations, then they would face a suspension from 25% of regular season games.


The third time they test positive, they still don’t risk losing eligibility unless the athlete didn’t comply with previous recommendations for education and management. Should this happen, the CSMAS recommends that the athlete face a 50% suspension from regular season games.


The current bylaws for the divisions state that positive drug tests immediately makes the athlete ineligible for 50% of regular season games while a second positive test would render them suspended for a whole season.


“These adjustments to the NCAA drug testing program were approved after careful consideration and extensive discussion of the recommendations made by the Drug Testing Subcommittee, which has been meeting since last fall,” explained CSMAS Chair, Stephanie Chu. “The updated cannabis testing policies create a clear pathway for student-athletes to participate in education and management programs specific to their needs at the campus level.”


Great Progress In Marijuana Law Sports Reform


What the NCAA is doing is prime example of how sports organizations and professional athletes are changing their stance when it comes to marijuana.


We can’t deny that professional athletes are benefiting from cannabis use, and there must be discussions around allowing them to use it especially because they see so many benefits. Last summer, Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspensions from the Olympics because of her positive THC drug test sparked discussions these discussions again. Then there was the case of Kamila Valieva, a Russian skater, who was allowed to compete at the Olympics even if she tested positive.


Back in 2020, the National Football League (NFL) began taking steps to adapt to the new status of cannabis, as legalization was spreading like wildfire around the country. On March 15th, 2020, they made significant changes on the 10-year labor agreement between the organization and their players, and among the notable adjustments included relaxing the rules surrounding how players consume marijuana.


Then the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced in October 2021 that they will no longer be randomly testing players for cannabis that season. “We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-2022 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” said Mike Bass last year, spokesman for the NBA.


Prior to all this, athletes have always been punished throughout history for using cannabis. There have been dozens of high-profile cases that made headlines around the world because of how athletes were criminalized and punished just because they used cannabis, even if it was merely to help them recover from sports or deal with personal life stresses. The way professional sports responds to cannabis use reflects the changing opinions around the country, and thankfully it’s headed towards a positive direction.

Each year, more people are becoming educated on the benefits of cannabis, which can be seen in how employer regulations are also changing.


We are seeing tremendous progress and no longer punishing athletes harshly for consuming cannabis. Sports leagues and teams are seeing the benefits of doing so, because easing restrictions while promoting the benefits of cannabis use by athletes is a move that can only help them succeed instead of the opposite. After all, cannabis is extremely beneficial for athletes in particular, whose bodies suffer from extreme stress caused by training. Muscle wear and tear, pain, and inflammation are just some of the many things that athletes have to deal with as part of their profession, but why should they be forced to use conventional pain management methods such as NSAIDS, which have well-known health risks and side effects?


Cannabis is legal, safe, and widely available these days. There should be no reason why athletes need to be stigmatized while the rest of the population are allowed to use it. Cannabis can effectively relieve pain, inflammation, and improve sleep quality for everyone without all the harmful side effects of pain killers and opioid medications. Let athletes use cannabis!







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