NCAA lifts ban on cannabis use for athletes in championships

June 26, 2024

Cannabis products will no longer be a banned drug for Division I athletes in championships, the NCAA announced on Tuesday, saying it will instead treat marijuana like alcohol.

The Division I Council announced that the decision to remove cannabis products from the banned drug class for its championships and postseason participation in football will be effective immediately. The council said that ongoing penalties for athletes who tested positive for cannabinoids will be discontinued.

“The NCAA drug testing program is intended to focus on integrity of competition, and cannabis products do not provide a competitive advantage,” Josh Whitman, chair of the council, said. “The council’s focus is on policies centered on student-athlete health and well-being rather than punishment for cannabis use.”

The NCAA has a drug-testing program for steroids, peptide hormones and masking agents throughout the year. During championships, it also tests for narcotics, stimulants and “recreational drugs,” according to its website.

Other drugs included on the banned substance list are stimulants, narcotics and peptide hormones.

Cannabis use among athletes was thrust into the spotlight after professional runner Sha’Carri Richardson was left off the USA Olympics team in 2021 after testing positive for marijuana. She has now made it onto the team for the 2024 Summer Olympics after winning the U.S. trials over the weekend.

Many advocates pushed for a change to the policy shortly after she missed the team in 2021, but cannabinoids, except cannabidiol (or CBD), remain a prohibited substance to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, celebrated the NCAA’s decision in a statement.

“Slowly, surely, America is coming to its senses after 50 years of the failed war drugs. It is only fitting that the NCAA remove cannabis from its list of banned substances as Sha’Carri Richardson qualifies for the 2024 Olympics — an accomplishment she earned for years ago but was wrongly taken away. Common sense is finally prevailing,” he said.