A recent study conducted by researchers at Kennesaw State University and Georgia College and State University has established a link between cannabis legalization and its impact on recruitment outcomes for college sports teams. Delving into the dynamics of recreational marijuana policies and their influence on talent acquisition, the researchers examined recruiting data spanning from 2003 to 2019.
Their findings, presented in the “Sports Economics Journal,” propose that cannabis legalization plays a major yet intricate role in shaping the landscape of college sports recruitment, particularly in football and basketball, warranting attention from NCAA leagues. The research revealed a positive correlation between cannabis legalization and enhanced recruitment prospects for college basketball teams. Teams situated in states where marijuana is legal experienced an average improvement of 3.7 slots in recruiting rankings. In stark contrast, the outcomes for football teams in legal states were less favorable, with recruitment rankings showing an average decline of 2.9 slots compared to similar institutions in nonlegal states.
Despite the absence of survey data from individual athletes, the authors caution against drawing definitive conclusions from their findings. Nonetheless, they offer speculative hypotheses to shed light on the observed disparities. One theory posits that variations in the recruitment landscape between football and basketball may be attributed to the historical cannabis policies of national leagues, such as the NBA and NFL. The NFL, with its more stringent penalties for marijuana use, could have instilled greater caution among college football players compared to their basketball counterparts.
The study notes the evolving landscape of league policies, citing adjustments made by both the NFL and NBA in 2020. The NBA, for instance, removed cannabis from its banned substances list, allowing players to engage in marijuana-related activities within specified limits. Similarly, the NFL altered its drug-testing policy to eliminate the threat of suspension for positive tests, signaling a more lenient stance.
Notably, the study highlights the broader impact of cannabis policy changes on various professional sports leagues, including the NCAA. In a significant move, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended the removal of cannabis from the list of banned substances for college athletes. This proposed reform aligns with the NCAA’s prior adjustment of the THC threshold for a positive test, bringing it in line with the WADA standards.
The researchers also explore the possibility that the disparate effects of legalization on football and basketball recruitment may be influenced by cultural differences within these sports communities. The study suggests that the basketball community might be more accepting of cannabis use, potentially empowering college recruits to choose institutions in states where recreational use is permitted.
The researchers acknowledge the need for further research to validate these hypotheses. However, they emphasize the predictive power of their results in anticipating the future dynamics of college athletics. With several states enacting legalization post-2019, the study suggests that colleges in these states may witness improved basketball recruitment and on-court performance but could experience adverse effects on football recruitment and on-field performance in the coming years.
Established cannabis companies such as Verano Holdings Corp. (CSE: VRNO) (OTCQX: VRNOF) likely wouldn’t have thought that the legalization of cannabis could have positive effects on recruitment into college sports teams. More research could reveal yet more benefits associated with ending cannabis prohibition.
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