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Nevada Sports Regulators Move To Formally Stop Penalizing Fighters Over Marijuana



Nevada sports regulators are considering amending their rules to formally protect athletes from being penalized over using or possessing marijuana in compliance with state law.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) will hold a public hearing on April 24 to receive feedback on proposed changes to the regulations, including new language on cannabis policy, as part of a comprehensive review that all state agencies are required to complete under an executive order from the governor.

This comes about two years after the commission, which regulates unarmed combat sports within the state, voted unanimously to stop penalizing professional fighters for testing positive for marijuana. It appears that the body is now moving to adopt specific language into its code to formalize that policy.

While the regulations would still say that the commission adopts the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances for athletes—which continues to include marijuana following the international governing body’s scientific review last year—they are seeking to add language to carve out an exception for cannabis for fighters in the state.

“The Commission does not classify cannabis or cannabis derived products as prohibited or banned substances under its program of drug testing and anti-doping that are included in one or more of the publications listed in subsection 1 provided such substances are legal for use or consumption under the laws of the State of Nevada,” the proposed amendment, first reported by Bloody Elbow, says.

Regulators are also looking to add a separate new section to the code that says the “possession, use, or consumption of cannabis or cannabis derived products shall not be deemed an anti-doping violation under this Chapter, regardless of the laws of the jurisdiction where such possession, use, or consumption occurs, provided such possession, use, or consumption is legal under the laws of the State of Nevada.”

It seems that would mean that athletes who consume marijuana in any state, no matter their cannabis laws, would not face sanctions as long as the activity is lawful under Nevada’s legalization policy.

The commission will also meet the day after the public hearing. It’s unclear if members will vote on adopting the changes, or possibly work to finalize a report that all state agencies are required to submit to Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) under his executive order by May 1. That report must include recommendations for amendments intended to streamline and clarify policy.

Professional athletics organizations at multiple levels have been reassessing and reforming cannabis policies in recent years amid the state-level legalization movement.

For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is reportedly planning to remove cannabis from its banned substances list for players, as well as allow them to promote and invest in the industry.

The Chicago Cubs recently became the first Major League Baseball (MLB) team to officially partner with a CBD company, which follows the national organization’s league-wide partnership with a popular CBD brand last year.

MLB has stood out among other professional sports leagues as more willing to respond to the changing marijuana policy landscape. For example, it clarified in a memo in 2020 that players will not be punished for using cannabis while they aren’t working, but they can’t be personally sponsored by a marijuana company or hold investments in the industry.

UFC announced in 2021 that they would no longer be punishing fighters over positive marijuana tests.

Separately, student athletes that are part of the NCAA would no longer automatically lose their eligibility to play following a positive marijuana test under rules that are were recommended by a key committee last year.

The National Football League’s (NFL) drug testing policy already changed demonstrably in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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