Should Marijuana Use Be Accepted in Sports?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Claire Parry, LLB, Associate at Kingsley Napley, in a Mar. 12, 2019 article, “Medical cannabis in sport – what athletes need to know,” available at kingsleynapley.co.uk, stated:
“Cannabis itself contains over 100 known types of cannabinoids, one of them being cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. CBD is the cannabinoid thought to possess medicinal benefits, including pain relief; however there are doubts about whether CBD is effective in itself without the presence of other cannabinoids, such as THC. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is arguably the most well-known of the cannabinoids as it possesses the psychoactive properties relied upon by users to get ‘high’.
I am an athlete. Which type of cannabis is banned? And when?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List sets out the Prohibited Substances which are prohibited at all times, and those that are only prohibited ‘in-competition’ (i.e. 12 hours before competition through to the end of the competition and sample collection).
Section 8 states that both natural and synthetic cannabinoids, including THC, are prohibited in-competition only. The only exception is CBD, which athletes are permitted to use at any time.
It is important to note that unlike with all other banned cannabinoids, the level of THC must reach a certain threshold in order to return a positive test (a positive test may also be referred to formally as an Adverse Analytical Finding or ‘AAF’). The threshold for THC to return an AAF is 150 nanograms per millilitre of urine.”Mar. 12, 2019
Kendall Baker, author at Axios Sports, in a Mar. 8, 2019 article, “Where the Major Sports Leagues Stand on Weed,” available at axios.com, stated:
“The public perception of marijuana is changing, and with more and more athletes accepting the idea of cannabis as medicine, professional sports leagues — and their drug policies — are being put under the microscope.
Why it matters: Of the 123 teams across the four major sports, 45 play in states or provinces where recreational marijuana is legal (36.6%), and another 56 play in jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal (45.5%), per ESPN [as of Mar. 7, 2019].
–That’s 82% of teams (101 of 123) that play in areas where players can legally buy pot — and that number will only increase as more states move forward with legalization.Mar. 8, 2019
What’s happening: In the the face of this dramatic shift, some leagues — worried about what ‘endorsing weed’ might do to their image — are hesitant to change their marijuana policies. Others, like the NHL, are completely rethinking their approach.”
Ricky O’Donnell, Basketball Editor at SB Nation, in a Dec. 4, 2020 article, “The NBA’s Weed Testing Should Be Abolished Forever,” available at sbnation.com, stated:
“The NBA should take marijuana off the banned substance list altogether.
The benefits of cannabis for athletes are well documented at this point. It can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and soreness, and improve sleep. It offers a safe, natural way for athletes to rest and recover, and comes without the dangerous side effects and addictive qualities of prescription pain killers.
If the NBA wants to be as progressive as it likes to think of itself, removing cannabis from the banned substance list is a very easy place to start. It’s a move that would be welcomed by the players and generate very little blowback from fans or advertising partners. Suspending random testing for this year is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t go far enough.”Dec. 4, 2020
Matt Funk, Sports Editor of Queens Journal, in a Nov. 6, 2020 article, “Commentary: It’s time to let athletes use cannabis.” available at queensjournal.ca, stated:
“While public opinion is generally shifting more favourably towards the use of cannabis, there’s one arena where little progress has been made: sports…
It has been established that consuming cannabis does reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that come with playing high-intensity sports, but so does Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, neither of which happen to be on the World Anti-Doping Association’s (WADA) prohibited list. Ironically, both of these painkillers have more addictive properties than cannabis, and both carry more adverse side-effects…
Although avid use of marijuana could certainly cause adverse side-effects to athletes, like lung damage or harmful effects in brain-development in teens and young adults, these side effects pale in comparison to the potential harms of frequent alcohol consumption—another substance exempt from WADA’s ban…
None of the three [WADA] criteria for banning a substance appear to coherently apply to cannabis; rather, its continued ban is likely due to the taboo perceptions of the drug at the time these rules were made. It’s time to ditch the misconceptions and give athletes some more autonomy regarding their personal choices.”Nov. 6, 2020
Athletes for CARE, in a May 2019 change.org petition, available at change.org, stated:
“Athletes for CARE, representing over 150 athletes, ranging from Super Bowl champions and Olympic medalists to Stanley Cup winners and NBA All-Stars, is calling for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to remove cannabis from its list of prohibited substances.
We have found an improved quality of life through cannabis and natural cannabinoids, including significant pain relief, therapeutic, and wellness benefits, and these positives should be freely available to all other athletes…
Athletes for CARE represents athletes from eight countries, who have competed in more than 50 professional leagues, spanning 28 sports.”May 2019
Drug Free Sport New Zealand, in a Jan. 8, 2019 FAQ, “Frequently Asked Questions about Cannabis,” available at drugfreesport.org.nz, stated:
“The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decides what substances are banned as WADA sets the Prohibited List, and cannabis has been on that list for a long time. Our role at DFSNZ is to influence WADA as to what goes on the list, or comes off it.
DFSNZ has been consistent in its annual submissions to WADA asking for cannabis to be removed from the Prohibited List. Our internal research, external advice and wider consultation with the medical and sporting community in New Zealand is that there is no evidence that cannabis is performance-enhancing.
In the past five years DFSNZ have established over 60 athlete doping rule violations in NZ. Four of these were related to recreational drugs: three for cannabis use and one for methamphetamine. So the number of athletes penalised for recreational drugs in NZ is low.
DFSNZ will continue to petition WADA to change its approach to recreational drugs, but in the meantime athletes should avoid using cannabis as it’s currently prohibited in sport.”Jan. 8, 2019
Derek Rosenfeld, Manager of Social Media and Media Relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a Dec. 7, 2016 article, “End the Ban on Marijuana in Sports,” available at drugpolicy.org, stated:
“Marijuana should not be a banned substance in professional sports.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in 28 states and recreational use in 8 states plus Washington D.C. [as of Dec. 7, 2016], yet it is a banned substance in most professional sports and athletes are not allowed to use it. It is time for the sports world to catch up with the times and adopt more rational marijuana policies.
The National Football League (NFL) is the clearest example of a backwards marijuana policy. The NFL ignores the medicinal benefits of marijuana, most notably its ability to treat chronic pain, and that comes with the territory of being a professional football player.
Instead, prescription opioid painkillers are the preferred treatment method… If people are suffering from chronic pain, using marijuana with painkillers can help reduce the amount of painkillers needed, and in some cases people have been able to completely replace their use of painkillers with marijuana. Overdose is an issue being discussed across the country right now and a 2014 study showed that opiate overdoses decreased by a nearly 25% average in states that have implemented medical marijuana laws compared to states that have not…
It’s time for all professional sports leagues to do the socially responsible thing: stop using the playbook and rhetoric from the failed drug war and create more fair marijuana policies.”Dec. 7, 2016
The USADA, in an undated explainer, “Marijuana FAQ: Your Questions Answered,” accessed on Apr. 22, 2021, and available at usada.org, stated:
“For something to be added to the WADA Prohibited List, it must meet two of the three inclusion criteria: a) it poses a health risk to athletes b) it has the potential to enhance performance and c) it violates the spirit of sport.
In 2011, WADA published a paper in Sports Medicine discussing the reasons marijuana and cannabinoids meet the criteria. Below are excerpts from this publication that address the three criteria:
1. ‘Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.’
2. ‘Based on current animal and human studies as well as on interviews with athletes and information from the field, cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.’
3. ‘Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world’.
In 2019, WADA exempted cannabidiol (CBD) from this category. However, all other cannabinoids, whether natural or synthetic, are prohibited in-competition. Even though CBD is permitted at all times, this article explains the legal and anti-doping issues that continue to make these products risky for athletes.”Apr. 22, 2021
WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), in an undated explainer, “Cannabinoid,” accessed on Apr. 22, 2021, and available at wada.ama.org, stated:
“A cannabinoid is a compound produced by the cannabis (marijuana) plant or synthesized as a chemical (synthetic cannabinoid). Of more than 100 cannabinoids in the plant, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound, which alters the mind or behavior. Other cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG). Since the mid-2000’s, many different synthetic cannabinoids were produced in illegal laboratories and sold as drugs to mimic the effects of THC…
All natural and synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited except for cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis, hashish and marijuana are prohibited. Products, including foods and drinks, containing cannabinoids, are also prohibited. All synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of THC are prohibited.”Apr. 22, 2021
The NCAA (National College Athletics Association), in a 2018 pamphlet, “NCAA Drug Policies,” available at ncaa.org, stated:
“Marijuana (banned): Marijuana contains the active ingredient THC. Marijuana use is linked to anxiety and panic reactions, respiratory damage, short-term memory impairment and a decreased focus on goals and personal achievement. Marijuana use is BANNED by the NCAA and can result in loss of eligibility.”2018
USA Cycling, in an undated FAQ page accessed on Apr. 22, 2021, “FAQ’S,” available at usacycling.org, stated:
“If weed is legalized in my state then it’s fine for me to use it as an athlete, right?Apr. 22, 2021
Wrong. The anti-doping rules have not changed despite changes in the legal status of weed across states and nations. Please review the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List.”
The International Tennis Federation, in a 2018 publication, “Tennis Anti-Doping Programme,” available at itftennis.com, stated:
“The following cannabinoids are prohibited:2018
• Natural cannabinoids, e.g. cannabis, hashish and marijuana
• Synthetic cannabinoids e.g. ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other