The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has taken a progressive step forward with respect to their policies regarding athletes’ personal cannabis use. These updated rules follow similar changes enacted by the NBA, MLB, and NFL— all of which have relaxed their cannabis testing policies. 

Changes to the NCAA’s policy include increasing the threshold of THC that must be present in an athlete’s body in order to trigger a positive test result so that it is consistent with that of the World Anti-Doping Agency (from 35ng/ml to 150ng/ml). The punishment for a positive drug test for THC was also heavily relaxed, with the possibility of suspension being deferred from the first positive test to the second, and the length of suspension being decreased from 50 percent of the season to 25 percent. 

These are welcome changes that reflect the changing cultural and legal status of cannabis. Studies have shown that cannabis is not a performance enhancing agent, so it is inappropriate for athletic bodies to impose punishments for those competitors who consume it while off the field.   

Commenting on the policy changes, NORML Political Director Morgan Fox said: “This is a timely and welcome change for the NCAA, and it coincides with similar policy shifts in a number of professional sports organizations and global athletic institutions. It makes no sense to punish athletes above and beyond the penalties they may already face under the applicable laws of their states for consuming a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol. More states are decreasing or eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis for people under the legal age limit, and an increasing number of colleges and universities — in legal and prohibition states alike — are taking steps to make their cannabis policies more in line with those for alcohol. The NCAA is absolutely correct to evolve their own policies in a similar manner.” 

Further information regarding the effects of cannabis on health, safety, psychomotor and cognitive performance, and more can be found on NORML’s Fact Sheets.


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