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Mar 2, 2022

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) announced that it is relaxing its rules, and the punishment, for its athletes that test positive for cannabis.

Under the current policy, one failed test for an athlete results in a half-season suspension. A positive test resulted if the test found 35 nanograms per milliliter of tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, during testing.  THC is the principal psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, but only one of the 113 cannabinoids identified in the plant.

The proposed policy will increase the amount of THC required to make a positive test result from 35 nanograms per milliliter of THC to 150 nanograms per milliliter of THC. In addition, athletes won’t risk missing games until there is a second positive test.

Athletes who test positive under the new rules are able to keep their eligibility after up to three positive tests. After a first positive test, a school must provide “a management plan and education” for the athlete. The athlete can then stay eligible after the second and third positive tests if he or she is in compliance with that management plan. If the athlete is found to be out of compliance, they could end up being suspended for a portion of the season.

This continues a trend seen in major league sports and furthers the thought that cannabis is not a “performance enhancing” drug. The National Basketball Association suspended testing for cannabis, Major League Baseball removed cannabis from its banned substance list, and the National Hockey League and the National Football League have loosened rules. Furthermore, the NFL is funding research on the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection in football players.

The new rule will also "prevent those who have inhaled cannabis via secondhand smoke from triggering a positive test and facing penalties."

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