The NCAA, the premier authority in intercollegiate sports, has announced the removal of marijuana and cannabis products from the list of banned substances for college football’s postseason and all Division I championships.


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“The NCAA drug testing program is intended to focus on integrity of competition, and cannabis products do not provide a competitive advantage,” stated Josh Whitman, chair of NCAA’s Division I Council and the athletic director at the University of Illinois. “The council’s focus is on policies centered on student-athlete health and well-being rather than punishment for cannabis use.”

Here are some key points from the new measure:

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As of Tuesday, the NCAA no longer classifies marijuana and cannabis products as banned substances for Division I championships and postseason football.

Removing cannabinoids from the banned drug list separates them from other substances like stimulants, anabolic steroids, narcotics, diuretics, drug masking agents, and growth hormones.

This decision follows the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports’ recommendation to remove cannabinoids from the banned substance list across all three NCAA divisions.

In a 2023 survey, approximately 26% of student-athletes reported cannabis use.

“We know that the previous cannabinoid policies and sanctions were not an effective deterrent to cannabinoid use,” said Deena Casiero, the vice chair of the committee and head team physician at UConn, in November. “We should be focusing on student-athletes who have or are at risk for cannabis use disorder. Randomly testing at NCAA championships is not the best way to identify or help student-athletes with use issues. The best way is to encourage schools to educate and test within an established harm-reduction strategy in their local spaces.”

Unsurprisingly, this policy change also aligns with recent federal and state actions regarding cannabis. 

Last month, President Joe Biden officially moved to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance, marking a significant shift in the nation’s drug policy. Additionally, earlier this month, Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced over 175,000 pardons for marijuana convictions, one of the largest acts of cannabis clemency in the country.

Get this; these changes came after the NCAA conducted a study on student-athlete substance use, surveying over 23,000 student-athletes nationwide. 

Here’s more data: The study revealed an increase in cannabis use among student-athletes, with 26% reporting use, up from 22% in 2013 and 25% in 2017. Cannabis use was found to be highest in men’s sports, at the Division III level, and among athletes at schools where cannabis is legal for recreational and medicinal use. However, cannabis use among student-athletes remains lower compared to the general undergraduate population, which is around 40%, according to other surveys cited by the NCAA.

Score a win for Cannabis proponents, but critics will surely have a say. Let’s see how it unfolds.

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