Super Bowl

Draconian NCAA Marijuana Policy Keeps Players Out of Football Championship


||| NCAA football/flickr

Oregon will be a mild favorite in the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game tonight. But the team will be forced to take the field without two key players, freshman wide receiver Darren Carrington and senior special teams player Ayele Forde, who reportedly tested positive for marijuana and have been suspended.

This kind drug of policy is common in professional and collegiate sports. Some recent high-profile cases include Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon landing a full season suspension (later reduced to 10 games) for repeated marijuana infractions before the start of the 2014 season, New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith getting a five-game suspension in 2013, and Houston Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton receiving a 50-game suspension for a second drug violation in 2013. (Luckily, most punishments today are only forward-looking and not retroactive. At the 1998 Winter Olympics, Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was nearly stripped of the Games' first snowboarding gold medal when he tested positive for marijuana after the fact.)

The marijuana policy of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is many times stricter than other leagues', though. A college athlete need only register five nanograms of THC (the main ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood to test positive, compared to 35 nanograms in the National Football League (NFL), 50 nanograms in Major League Baseball (MLB), and 150 nanograms for the Olympics.

Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde that the NCAA's policy has "a very, very low threshold…Someone could fail even if they last used days or possibly weeks ago."

The NCAA is a private organization, free to implement whatever drug policy it so chooses. But because it receives hundreds of millions in tax exemptions and the majority of member schools are public institutions, its draconian policy would seem to have the tacit endorsement of the government. This is especially odd because 16 percent of all Division I athletes have admitted to using marijuana within the last year. Moreover, Oregon is one of four states that have passed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use—though the policy does not go into effect until July 1.

As with other attempts to legislate morality, it's difficult to persuade people to campaign for change. The stigma of being a pot supporter is likely to outweigh any individual gains an athletic director or coach may receive from reform. And the rhetoric around these issues makes it seem as though athletes have committed a grievous, devastating act in using marijuana. When Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim released a statement saying, "Our hope is that this suspension will give Daryl the opportunity to accept the necessary help and guidance to get his life back on track."

Some athletes are speaking out, however. After Milwauke Bucks forward Larry Sanders received a five-game suspension last year, he candidly told a reporter:

"It's a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I'm going to use it…I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we've been deprived. You can't really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing…The stigma is that it's illegal. I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away."

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  1. yes, it’s a stupid rule. And yet, it is a rule and EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

    1. So what, that makes enforcement of the stupid rule OK?

      1. If you willingly agree to live by stupid rules in exchange for a scholarship, then yes.

      2. It makes enforcement of the rule predictable, dumb ass. This rule did not sneak up on Carrington. Don’t toke up during the season. It’s not that complicated.

      3. Yes. In fact, non-enforcement would be 100% wrong under the circumstances. That’s how rules work, and in fact how the rule of law works.

        This particular bit of ignorance does not bode well for your future.

        1. So you all have no criticism for some of the application of rules colleges have about handling sexual assault allegations then, as long as they’re spelled out?

        2. “In fact, non-enforcement would be 100% wrong under the circumstances.”

          Is this a quote from the principle that expelled the kid who pretended his chicken tender was a gun?

          1. principal

            1. principals, not principles

    2. Yeah, but 5 ng? You can hit that level just walking down the street in Eugene, Oregon.

  2. Although I agree with Larry, he’s not the greatest poster child. He got in a bar fight and missed a chunk of last year, and now he’s been sent away from the Bucks for non-injury related reasons. All of that may be unrelated to his marijuana comments, but I’m guessing many folks will find a connection.

  3. I predict TCU will win.

  4. This is Oregon, I thought people died when the THC level in their blood fell too low.

  5. So dope is legal in the state where the school is, it could hardly be considered a ‘performance enhancer’, but tough luck, pal: You sit!
    OK, it is the rule, and they both knew it, but I can still find a bad guy here for for whom our Swiss commenter should narrow his gaze.

  6. Pardon the interruption, but anyone have any idea how one might watch the game via streaming when one doesn’t have cable and doesn’t feel inclined to go to a sports bar? TIA

    1. I think you can stream on your phone on

    2. Try the first row. Don’t remember the exact website.

  7. Being the first player suspended from the CFB championship for MJ is a rather doobie-ous distinction.

  8. GO BUCKS!

  9. Isay roll them over the hill dude.


    “Everybody thinks that if you did this random testing you’d catch so many guys on PEDs. No, you’d catch more of the guys on marijuana. So [we’ve got] 475 guys under contract and 400 of them would be out with marijuana [suspensions].”
    ?Dana White, president of the UFC.

    “At least a good 50 [US] Olympic athletes use marijuana regularly before they stop in time for testing.”
    ?Stephany Lee

    “I just let him know that most of the players in the league use marijuana and I have and do partake in smoking weed in the offseason”
    ?Josh Howard, forward for the Dallas Mavericks. Howard admitted to smoking marijuana on Michel Irvin’s ESPN show.

    “You got guys out there playing high every night. You got 60% of your league on marijuana. What can you do?”
    ?Charles Oakley (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets)

    “I personally know boxers, body builders, cyclists, runners and athletes from all walks of life that train and compete with the assistance of marijuana,”
    ?WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam

    * Even many of the best cricket players of all time, like Phil Tufnell and Sir Ian Botham, have admitted to regularly using marijuana to deal with stress and muscle aches. In 2001, half of South Africa’s cricket team was caught smoking marijuana with the team physiotherapist. They were celebrating a championship victory in the Caribbean.

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  12. this is so unimportant it’s not worth writing a word about, much less an article. the real scandal is sick people who never entered into any contract with anyone to not smoke weed being denied like the oldest drug on earth.

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