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NCAA committee suggests removing cannabis from list of banned drugs

Doug Samuels

Sep 22, 2023

Exploring a Shift in NCAA Policy: Committee Proposes Removing Cannabis from the List of Banned Substances

Finally, in 2023 the NCAA seems ready to acknowledge that weed had no performance enhancing benefits, and is considering taking it off the banned drugs list.

The legal and ethical conversations around marijuana and cannabis is something that has evolved significantly over the last decade, and it seems that the NCAA may be ready to recognize that as well.

Today, the NCAA announced that the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended that each of the NCAA three divisional governing bodies introduce, and adopt legislation that would remove weed and other cannabinoids from the list of banned drugs.

The statement says that the recommendation is based on "extensive study informed by industry and subject matter experts (including doctors, substance misuse experts)" and others that share the opinion that cannabis is not a performance enhancing drug.

Instead of banning it, the committee suggests a "harm-reduction" approach by each school, while recognizing the cultural and legal shifts that have taken place surrounding the controversial drug.

Removing cannabinoids would do a few things, the NCAA points out, starting with acknowledging the ineffectiveness of the existing policy that includes banning testing and penalizing for positive tests, and it also affirms the role of the NCAA drug testing program that should center only on performance-enhancing substances.

The release comes after the committee signaled their support for removing cannabinoids from the banned list back in June, and this fall the NCAA Board of Governors asked that a more legislative path was taken to push the issue forward.

"When making a decision on an important topic like this, we agree that the membership should have an opportunity to vote on the final outcome," James Houle, committee chair and lead sport psychologist at Ohio State shared in the release. "We are recommending a big shift in the paradigm when it comes to cannabinoids. We want to modernize the strategy with the most up-to-date research to give schools the best opportunity to support the health of student-athletes."

While this certainly seems like a no-brainer to just about everyone that understands where cannabis products stand in our currently cultural landscape, it also comes at a time when the NCAA is desperately searching for positive publicity on the heels of decisions like making North Carolina's Tez Walker sit out this fall for transferring prior to the NCAA rules that were put place after the time of his transfer.

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