A committee within the NCAA has officially recommended removing cannabis from the list of prohibited substances for college athletes. The Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) reached this conclusion following a recent meeting, urging all three governing bodies within the association to enact legislation that would cease the testing and penalizing of players for cannabinoids.
The committee based its recommendation on several factors, including the inadequacies of the current policy, their conviction that marijuana does not improve athletic performance and the significance of adopting a harm-reduction approach.
Should the reform be accepted, it will build upon a previous change made by the NCAA, which raised the THC level for a positive test from 35 nanograms (ng) per milliliter (ml) to 150, aligning it with the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Committee chair James Houle underlined the significance of member institutions having a say in such a significant policy shift, stressing the need for new research to support the well-being of student-athletes.
The committee also recommended that a comprehensive educational approach be developed to accompany any prospective changes to cannabinoid regulation. This move is consistent with a larger trend observed in professional sports groups, reflecting the growing acceptability of state-level cannabis legalization.
The NBA recently removed marijuana from its list of prohibited substances and allowed players to engage with cannabis brands. Sports regulators in Nevada have also taken steps to shield athletes from penalties related to marijuana use or possession, aligning with state law.
In 2021, the UFC announced it would no longer penalize fighters for positive cannabis tests. Moreover, the NYMSL partnered with a Kentucky-based CBD company, following the lead of the MLB and teams such as the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals. MLB entered a league-wide partnership with a well-known CBD brand in 2022, designating them the “Official CBD brand of MLB.”
While these changes have garnered support from advocates, criticism has arisen toward WADA for maintaining its cannabis ban. A panel within WADA argued that marijuana use by athletes runs counter to the “sport’s enthusiasm” and could set a negative example while potentially endangering others.
Advocates have called for WADA to consider reforms, especially following the suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson from Olympic events due to a positive THC test in 2021. Subsequently, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the White House, including President Joe Biden, expressed support for policy changes, with congressional lawmakers echoing these sentiments.
The cannabis industry, including many of its leading actors such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON), has long believed that marijuana has been maligned based on many unfounded misconceptions. When entities such as the NCAA reverse their prohibitive drug policies, advocates are vindicated as science rebuts many of the wrong premises upon which this plant was outlawed.
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