U.S. Universities Have Scaled Back Punitive Cannabis Policies for Athletes

A recent investigation conducted by The Associated Press shows that many of the nation’s largest universities have eased back punishments in recent years for athletes who test positive for marijuana use.

Though the recreational use of cannabis is legal for adults over the age of 21 in Oregon and Washington, it’s still against the rules of the Pac-12 conference—where schools in those states compete—to partake in recreational drug use. Other conferences, like Big Ten and Big 12, will test athletes but not exact punitive measures, instead forwarding their results onto the athlete’s school for action.

Of the 57 schools investigated, 23 have reduced penalties for a positive test in the last five years, or have increased the number of infractions before an athlete is suspended or dismissed. Ten of the schools have written separate policies specifically targeting marijuana that are less strict than other types of infractions.

NCAA medical chief officer Dr. Brian Hainline aims to change overall NCAA policy to not test athletes for recreational drug use at all, keeping the focus on performance enhancing drugs.

“The most important thing that I can’t emphasize enough is that as a society, we have to make a clear distinction between recreational drug use and cheating,” Hainline said. “I really believe that they require two different approaches. One is more nuanced, and one is hard core.”

Photo Credit: Jamie Schaap

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