The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which regulates student athletics among approximately 1,100 institutions in the US and Canada, has suggested a significant change in their stance on cannabis.
Following meetings in Indianapolis, the NCAA expressed intentions to remove cannabis from their list of banned substances.
They highlighted that cannabis does not enhance athletic performance and recommended a harm-reduction approach be adopted at the institutional level.
Committee chair James Houle, of Ohio State, emphasised the importance of modernising policies based on current research, to best support student-athletes’ well-being.
This recommendation is timely, considering the increased acceptance of cannabis in the sports world and broader society.
For instance, the Major League Baseball (MLB) delisted cannabis from its “drugs of abuse” in 2019, while the NBA abolished marijuana testing recently as well as any sanctions for players using cannabis.
A significant insight is the notable prevalence of cannabis use among student-athletes, which is generally higher than that of the broader student population.
A 2018 survey discovered that 37% of male and 25% of female college athletes admitted to using cannabis in the preceding year, in comparison to 24% of male and 18% of female students overall.
The NCAA’s recommendation, bolstered by “extensive study informed by industry and subject-matter experts”, addresses three main issues: the inefficacy of the current policy, the limited purpose of the NCAA drug-testing programme to target performance-enhancing drugs only, and the crucial shift towards a harm-reduction model that emphasises education and support over penalties.
This shift reflects a broader trend in America, where medical cannabis is now legal in 38 states and recreational use in 23, all of which have legalised it within the last 12 years.