The National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) is a major player in sports. In 2022, they helped 520,000 students in athletic college programs compete. That includes over 1,100 schools with 19,000+ teams. They are a non-profit footprint covering the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and United States Virgin Islands.
In 2019, pre-pandemic in person turmoil, just NCAA Division 1 sports generated $15.8 billion in revenue. Colleges with football teams can expect to earn an average of $31.9 million per school. The average March Madness game had 10 million viewers. There are dozens of NCAA videos games helping drive the non-profit’s $900+ million budget.
So, they are a slow organization that is slow to changes. The President is former governor and GOP member Charlie Baker. He is a republican when the Grand Old Party in congress is glacially moving toward a more modern and data approach to marijuana.
So it is a big deal when a NCAA panel is calling for the association to remove cannabis from its banned drug list and testing protocols. The testing has been in place since 1986. The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, said testing should be limited to performance-enhancing drugs and found that cannabis does not enhance performance.
The committee also requested the NCAA to halt testing for cannabis at championship events while changes are considered. No decision has been made, but will be reviewed.
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Reason for considering the change was informed by the December 2022 Summit on Cannabinoids in College Athletics and includes the consensus opinion that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug and a harm reduction approach to cannabis is best implemented at the school level. Additional rationale included:
- Focusing on testing for substances that provide an unfair advantage by enhancing athletic performance.
- Shifting toward a harm reduction philosophy for cannabis, similar to the approaches taken with alcohol.
- Realigning toward institutional testing and how that testing supports/enhances campus efforts to identify problematic cannabis use.
- Educating student-athletes on the health threats posed by contemporary cannabis and methods of use.
- Identifying and explaining relevant harm reduction/mitigation strategies to those student-athletes who choose to legally consume cannabis.
To be removed from the NCAA list of banned drugs, the three NCAA divisional governance bodies would have to introduce and adopt legislation. The NCAA is reviewing this and will make a final decision in the fall.