"NCAAs New Stance on Cannabis: From Penalties to Progress" blog image

NCAA’s New Stance on Cannabis: From Penalties to Progress

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    As of recent, the NCAA’s recent policy change is making waves and sparking discussions about societal norms and the growing acceptance of cannabis, both medically and recreationally. The new ruling permits student-athletes to use cannabis under specific conditions, reflecting the broader trend toward cannabis normalization. By raising the threshold for THC in drug tests and focusing on education and support rather than punishment, the NCAA aims to balance athlete well-being with performance standards.

    What is the NCAA?

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes. Each year, NCAA schools award nearly $3.5 billion in athletics scholarships and support student-athletes in graduating at rates higher than their general student peers. Over 500,000 college athletes across three divisions compete at approximately 1,100 member schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The NCAA also oversees 90 championships in 24 sports, manages beneficial programs for student-athletes, and supports member committees that create rules and policies for college sports.

    What are the Latest NCAA Cannabis Policy Updates?

    The Division I council voted to remove cannabis products from the banned drug class for championships and postseason participation in football. As part of the new ruling, any penalties currently being served by student-athletes who previously tested positive for cannabinoids will be discontinued. While the use of cannabis by student-athletes is now permitted, there are still specific conditions this ruling follows. Key points of this updated policy include:

    • Threshold Levels Increased: The NCAA has raised the threshold for THC in drug tests. This means that athletes are less likely to be penalized for incidental or medicinal cannabis use.
    • There is now more focus on education and support. Athletes who test positive for cannabis will be directed to educational programs and, if necessary, treatment plans to address any underlying issues.
    • Student-athletes with a valid medical prescription for cannabis will be allowed to use it without facing penalties. This aligns with the increasing recognition of cannabis as a legitimate option for various medical conditions.
    • While the policy is more lenient, the NCAA still discourages recreational use of cannabis. The emphasis remains on maintaining peak physical and mental performance and the overall well-being of the athletes.

    "The Division I council voted to remove cannabis products from the banned drug class for championships and postseason participation in football."

    What This Means for Cannabis

    Cannabis use has been prevalent across various sports, with high-profile athletes like UFC fighter Conor McGregor and former NBA star J.R. Smith openly discussing their use. Despite increasing acceptance, incidents like Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s ban from the Tokyo Olympics for testing positive for cannabis highlight the ongoing stigma and call for a major overhaul in how cannabis use is perceived. The NCAA’s recent policy change is a positive step in the right direction, reflecting the evolving societal acceptance of cannabis. However, overcoming long-standing prejudices remains a critical challenge in fully integrating cannabis into mainstream athletics, indicating that there is still much work to be done to destigmatize this plant.

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    Advocating for Change

    As society moves forward, it is essential to continue advocating for informed, balanced perspectives on cannabis use in all aspects of life. By doing so, we can ensure that individuals receive the support they need to maintain their health and well-being, whether they are athletes, patients using cannabis for medical reasons, or individuals choosing it for recreational purposes. This ongoing advocacy will help us work towards a future where cannabis is fully integrated and accepted across all areas of society, reducing stigma and promoting a more informed and inclusive understanding of its benefits and uses.

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    Works Cited:

    1. Vannini, Chris. “NCAA Di Removes Cannabinoids from Banned Drug Class.” The New York Times, The New York Times, Accessed 27 June 2024.

    2. Kim, Juliana. “The NCAA Looks to Weed out Marijuana from Its Banned Drug List.” NPR, NPR, 17 June 2023,

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