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Nevada Athletic Commission to Consider Lifting Ban on Marijuana

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When a state makes the bold move to legalize marijuana – whether it be for medicinal or recreational purposes – there are a lot of other organizations that will have to decide where they stand with the newly legal substance.

For employers, the answer is often to simply continue to treat it as an illegal drug – since it is illegal at the federal level – which sadly has led to many medical marijuana patients being denied unemployment after being terminated due to a failed drug test, even when they have a doctor’s recommendation and state medical marijuana identification card.

The same issue is being seen in sports – in many cases, a positive drug test for cannabis is all it takes to derail a promising sport career, even if it is being used medicinally and on the individual’s own time in a legal manner. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality that so far we haven’t had much luck in changing.

However, in the state of Nevada, where recreational marijuana legalization passed with 55% of the vote in the November 2016 election, change may be coming for at least one of the governing bodies that oversees boxing, kickboxing and MMA fighting.  

The Nevada Athletic Commission oversees the rules and regulations for all three unarmed combat styles – and this coming Friday they intend to start a discussion about dropping marijuana (cannabinoids specifically) from the banned substances list. This would mean that if they were to drug test any of the fighters and they tested positive for THC, they would no longer face fines, suspension or other penalties.

The most publicized case between a fighter and the Nevada Athletic Commission is that of Nick Diaz, who was originally banned for five years and fined $165,000 after his third failed drug test that was positive for marijuana. In the end, Diaz lawyers and the NAC agreed to an 18 month suspension and a $100,000 fine – however this may change if the commission were to remove cannabis from the list of Prohibited Substances and Methods.

While the NAC may be willing to budge on their position when it comes to marijuana, and likely only due to the new state law, on a national level fighters will still be tested for cannabis and will still be disqualified, suspended or fined for using it. For example, UFC fighters from Nevada not only get tested by the NAC but also by the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency), who partners with the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), who still consider cannabis a banned substance.

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