The Legislative Council of the NCAA approved a measure that would reduce the penalty for a positive marijuana drug test. Currently, college athletes face a full year suspension if caught using marijuana, but, after August 1st of this year, the suspension will be reduced to half of a year.
NCAA reasoned that marijuana is not “performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation.” The change in policy distances marijuana from being seen equally to steroid use and treats the issue “the same as academic fraud.” This change clearly reflects the national shift on attitudes about marijuana towards decriminalization rather than strict punishment.
However, individual schools and conferences can still set whatever harsher penalties they like for their players. Since the NCAA only tests for marijuana during championships, it’s fairly easy for an athlete to stop smoking marijuana a month before the NCAA Tournament to test negative.
“But if the NCAA would get out of the morality business when it comes to things like substances, and stay in the business of making sure competition is fair and not tainted by PEDs, I think it would be better for everyone,” Glenn Logan said in an article for SB Nation. “After all, we don’t test regular scholarship students for marijuana, so why should student-athletes be singled out?”
In an interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers voiced his support of medical marijuana use to treat pain in the NBA. Currently, the NBA has strict penalties for drug use, which typically lead to suspensions and fines. It was only in 2011 that the NBA stopped testing for marijuana use in the off-season, but now that marijuana is in the limelight, its place in the NBA, as a form of medical treatment for pain, has come into question.
Griffin was asked:
The NFL might let players use medical marijuana to treat pain. If you had a vote, would the NBA do the same?
It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit from it and not take as many painkillers, which have worse long-term effects. So I would vote yes. I just think it makes sense.
Griffin joins the chorus of other outspoken athletes like Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, who said earlier this year, “I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it.”
Like any professional sport, the need for painkillers is a part of the game, and, as Griffin pointed out, the harmful long-term effects of some painkillers makes medical marijuana use an alluring alternative. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UFC have begun by changing their thresholds of permissible amounts of marijuana.
Earlier this month, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law SB 174, known as Carly’s Law. This law creates an affirmative defense for patients suffering from debilitating epileptic conditions — or their caregivers — for the possession and use of marijuana extracts that are high in CBD (a component of marijuana). It is a strong endorsement by Alabama lawmakers of the medical benefits of marijuana. Unfortunately, the law suffers from several fatal flaws, rendering it ineffective.
Unfortunately, by being limited to low-THC extracts and patients with epilepsy, SB 174 leaves the vast majority of patients behind. Even patients with epilepsy are extremely unlikely to get relief. Carly’s Law requires a “prescription” for the legal use of medical marijuana. Yet “prescribing” a federally illegal substance may jeopardize a doctor’s federal license. Meanwhile, a “recommendation” is protected under the First Amendment.
By merely providing an affirmative defense, the law won’t protect patients from being arrested and dragged into court. Finally, this law relies on the University of Alabama at Birmingham to implement the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, based on what we have already experienced in other states, this university hospital-based approach is extremely unlikely to ever get off the ground.
Last Thursday, the Minnesota Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing took testimony on SF 1641, compassionate medical marijuana legislation introduced by Sen. Scott Dibble. Unfortunately, the hearing ran long, so the committee tabled the vote until they reconvene following this week’s spring recess.
Lawmakers will return to St. Paul on April 22, and they could remain in session as little as a few days before ending their work for the year. Medical marijuana legislation is overwhelmingly supported by the public and championed by a diverse and bipartisan group of lawmakers. Just yesterday, Maryland became the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana law.
The medical marijuana bill will need to move quickly once lawmakers return from the break.
Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.
The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measurewill officially go into effect on October 1.
This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.