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420 with CNW — NCAA Removes Cannabis from List of Banned Substances

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Marijuana will no longer be prohibited for Division 1 athletes following a vote by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The decision comes approximately five months after the association’s Division I Council recommended the change.

The new policy highlights that cannabis should be viewed similarly to alcohol because it isn’t a performance-enhancing substance. Further, the change follows a 2022 policy revision that increased the allowable THC levels for college athletes, bringing the NCAA’s rules in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The new rule modifies the NCAA’s drug-testing guidelines for student-athletes participating in postseason football and sports championships, applying retroactively to remove any current penalties for marijuana-related violations.

NCAA council head, Josh Whitman, said in a news release that marijuana does not provide athletes with an unfair edge and that the drug-testing policy is intended to protect the fairness of competition. The NCAA further noted on social media that cannabinoids will be treated just as other substances that do not enhance performance, such as alcohol, with a focus on harm reduction for problematic marijuana use.

The reform is based on the NCAA’s CSMAS preliminary recommendations made last June, which suggested that all three governing bodies of the NCAA remove cannabis from the prohibited substances list. While Division I has voted on the proposal, Divisions II and III have yet to make their decisions.

The CSMAS’s recommendation recognized the shortcomings of the prior regulation and said that prohibiting and testing and punishing for the use of cannabis did not support the association’s view that the substance is not performance enhancing; rather, the regulations supported a harm-reduction approach.

Other sports associations have also revised their cannabis-testing regulations in light of changing state laws. For instance, as part of a collective bargaining agreement, the NFL and its players’ union decided in 2020 to stop suspending players for using cannabis. The NFL has also invested significantly in researching whether CBD can be a viable alternative to opioids and its potential for chronic pain management.

Further, the UFC declared in December that, per previous revisions, it would take cannabis off its list of prohibited substances. However, prior to a UFC event in February, a California athletics association stated that fighters could still be penalized by state laws for having THC levels above a specific threshold.

While supporters applaud these changes, WADA has come under fire for sticking to its prohibition of cannabis. A WADA panel argued in August of last year that cannabis usage goes against the sporting spirit, implying that athletes who use it become less than ideal role models and that their possible impairment may put others in danger.

As more sports bodies recognize that the prohibition of marijuana in the past wasn’t based on sound scientific reasons, they are likely to amend their rules and allow athletes to freely partake of the medical or recreational cannabis products from licensed companies such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON), which could further boost the growth of the industry.

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