On Friday, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) will consider removing cannabis from its banned substance list, though the decision will not be final after the conclusion of the meeting Friday. Cannabis and its metabolites, over a threshold of 150 ng/ml, are currently prohibited under NAC rules in competition.
If the Nevada commission were to remove the cannabis ban, use of the substance could still remain problematic, even in the state. Cannabis is banned in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which tests UFC fighters in competition, follows the WADA code.
Jake Shields, former UFC contender
So even if Nevada Athletic Commission decides to remove cannabis from its banned substance list, UFC fighters could still be sanctioned for consuming cannabis in competition. “In competition” is defined by WADA as a period that starts six hours before a scheduled fight time and ends six hours after the end of the fight.
An NAC move to end its cannabis ban could possibly start a domino effect by anti-doping agencies. In recent years, WADA has relaxed its stance on cannabis, changing the threshold level in 2013 from 5 nanograms per milliliter (a common per se limit used in some state impaired-driving laws) to 150 ng/ml.
Doing “what’s fair for the fighter”
Speaking to Leafly News earlier this week, NAC Executive Director Bob Bennett said the decision to reconsider the commission’s policy on cannabis came after Nevada passed adult-use cannabis legalization on November 8.
“I think what happened is, the state legalized it for recreational use, and NAC Chairman Anthony Marnell is forward thinking—thinking outside the box,” Bennett said. “[Marnell is] always looking for ways to make the Nevada State Athletic Commission more professional, efficient, and effective.”
Bennett noted that the state’s change in cannabis law it could have an impact in some of the NAC’s regulations, especially when it comes to fines and suspensions of fighters.
Bennett told Leafly that the number one concern from the NAC standpoint is the health and safety of the athletes who compete in Nevada. The NAC, he said, “wants to do what is fair for the fighter.”
“We like to lead, not follow,” Bennett added. “We are going to get the facts and figures, and I will present them to the chairman. Hopefully brighter minds will prevail, and they will make the right decision.”
Former fighters react
As news of the possible end of the Commission’s cannabis ban spread through the sports world this week, a number of former pro fighters reacted positively.
Former UFC contender and Strikeforce champion Jake Shields told Leafly News that the move “is long overdue.”
“There are so many fighters that use marijuana for their pain or sleeping issues,” Shields said, “so it’s unfortunate guys are not able to use it before their fights. They used to be so strict, like with Nick (Diaz) they were trying to give him a five-year ban. So it is good to see they are starting to wake up and realize it is not something that should be banned.”
You might remember the Nick Diaz story; Diaz was suspended five-years for failing a post-fight drug test at UFC 183 in 2015. Diaz’s suspension was later reduced to only 18 months, still taking almost a year and a half off away from a fighter for consuming cannabis. You also might remember his brother Nate, who was vaping CBD after competing at UFC 202.
Shields added that it is really nice that people are starting to wake up, and realize that cannabis is not the big bad drug it is made out to be.
Jiu jitsu legend and frequent Joe Rogan Experience Podcast guest Eddie Bravo also spoke with Leafly News about the NAC’s potential move. Bravo, a longtime cannabis advocate, said that the news is certainly positive.
“It’s a great that the commission is finally realizing that cannabis shouldn’t be on the banned list,” Bravo said. “The world is now waking up to the positivity of the sacred plant. It’s a beautiful time to be alive.”
Bravo has long been open about the ways that cannabis expanded his creativity while training. Bravo added that he thinks if the NAC removes the ban, fighters will be less secretive about their own cannabis consumption.
If the NAC does remove its cannabis ban, it could start a trend simply because of the state’s prominent place in the professional fighting world. “The Nevada Athletic Commission tends to lead the way,” Shields said. “They are one of the strictest” athletic commissions in the nation, he said, and “other states look at them to kind of lead the way. I think if they make the change a lot of other states will do it as well.”