Sports

NCAA Bans Football Player Because He Uses CBD Oil to Control Seizures

As medical and recreational marijuana become more widely accepted and legalized, it's not only government agencies that have to deescalate the drug war.

|

Jake Drake/Cal Sport Media/Newscom

C.J. Harris helped his Georgia high school football team reach the state championship game last year and had been offered a spot on the roster at Auburn University as a walk-on—that is, a non-scholarship player—to play defensive back for the Tigers, one of the top college football programs in the country.

But Harris suffers periodically from epileptic seizures and uses cannabidiol (CBD) oil, derived from marijuana, to manage his symptoms. That makes him ineligible to play college football, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ruled last week in a decision that has been widely panned.

After reviewing Harris' medical records, Auburn's coaches told Harris' family that C.J. would not be able to compete in NCAA sports while taking CBD oil, WGXA reported last week. "When I read the text that one of the coaches sent me, I just, I broke down," Harris told the Macon, Georgia, TV station. "Because this is my dream, and I saw everything lining up perfectly for me."

The NCAA has a strict zero tolerance drug policy for athletes, and players caught with even trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, are banned. Even though CBD oil is made from the stalks of the cannabis plant—as opposed to coming from the flowers, or "buds," of the plant, like marijuana—and does not create the same effect of feeling "high" that comes from smoking or eating cannabis products with higher concentrations of THC, it can still contain trace amounts of THC, enough to violate the NCAA's hardline anti-drug policy.

"We urge the NCAA to review their existing guidelines on THC and explore possible exceptions to allow players under medical treatment, like C.J., the ability to fulfill their dreams of playing college football," said Phil Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, in a statement. "We hope the NCAA would reconsider their decision and assess C.J. on his character and talent as a football player."

Even some college football coaches are speaking out against the NCAA's rules. "A kid should not be punished for his seizures being brought under control," Jerry Kill, the former University of Minnesota football coach who was named Big 10 Coach of the Year in 2014 and had to retire from coaching because of epileptic seizures, told a CNN reporter. "It's not fair to the kid."

More than 3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, and about one-third of them have a form of the disease that does not respond well to pharmaceutical treatments. For many of them, including Harris, CBD oil has offered a potential solution. Since 2013, 17 states have legalized low-THC cannabis oil for limited medical purposes. Republican governors have signed 14 of those bills, including governors of deep red states like Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah. While special interests continue to fight CBD legalization in some places, the momentum is clearly on the side of legalization and ending the drug war.

Harris started suffering seizures in the 8th grade, but says he has not had a seizure in more than a year since starting to use CBD oil as a treatment. CBD is legal in both Georgia, where he lives, and in Alabama, where Auburn University is located.

As CBD oil, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana become more widely accepted and legalized, it's not only police and other government agencies that have to deescalate the drug war. The NCAA is a private institution and can make it's own rules, of course, but those rules should reflect the changing attitudes and policies surrounding the use of marijuana, particularly when student-athletes' health is part of the equation.

At the professional level, the National Football League is researching how CBD oil and other forms of medical marijuana might be able to help football players deal with the long-term consequences of playing the violent, dangerous sport—with current and former players advocating for the league to change its policy.

But the NCAA remains rooted to an outdated anti-drug mentality that leaves players with fewer treatment options and might end Harris' college football career before it starts.

Advertisement

NEXT: An MSU Student Said an Athlete Raped Her. Officials Found Him Innocent, Then Expelled Him—and He Had No Idea.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. 17 states have legalized low-THC cannabis oil for limited medical purposes. Republican governors have signed 14 of those bills, including governors of deep red states like Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah.

    Cousinfucking copsucking teathuglikkkans.

    Can’t wait for the #bluewave so we can put an end to this madness.

    1. The governor of which state made the following statement?

      “XXXXXXXXX said he is not sure legalizing pot is a good idea in his state because the country could lose its competitive edge if too many people are getting stoned.
      If pot smoking gains more legitimacy in [……], XXXXXXXX said he worries it could have negative ripple effects.
      “The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes,” he said in a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have […] a great nation?”

    2. Your invective is impressive but entirely inaccurate inasmuch as you conflate the Republicans in power and what they do with man-in-the-street Republicans. I know many of them and have had this discussion with pretty much most of them. I have yet to meet one who believes that CBD and medical marijuana should be banned.

      This is the problem with self-righteous leftie squawkers: you do not know “the base” and never will and allow your inbred antagonism to the ordinary people of this country infect everything you think and say. And along the way provide all the evidence anyone needs as to why Trump was elected. I seriously hope none of you ever wake up.

      1. “self-righteous leftie squawker”

        lol. You must be new around here.

        My post was obvious (I thought) sarcasm because 14 out of the 17 governors that legalized CBD ARE republicans, not democrats… contra the left’s narrative.

  2. So who’s he playing football w now?

    1. There are plenty of adult teams in his area, & the game’s a lot of fun, so I’ll be he’s playing on at least one of them. Maybe even one in the spring, another in the fall. Who needs NCAA?

  3. I wonder if his seizures have anything to do with participating in an activity known for causing brain injury on a regular basis?

    -jcr

    1. Thank God Christopher Reeves didn’t play football, right? This kid should’ve really take up a sport with a much lower chance of head injury like cycling. If him an half a million other kids fractured their spines cheerleading or tore their achilles sprinting, they’d all be spared this TBI nonsense.

      1. Congratulations, this is officially the stupidest response I’ve ever seen to a mention of CTE.

        1. Congratulations, this is officially the stupidest response I’ve ever seen to a mention of CTE.

          Which is fitting since the article is about CBD Oil and not CTE. There’s zero evidence that the kid has CTE (or that the condition wasn’t entirely made up to get a license for CBD oil), but we’ll speculate that it was The Devil’s Sport that gave it to him anyway won’t we! Gotta get that moral superiority fix somewhere, right?

  4. Do kids on the low THC oil test positive in urine samples?

    In other words, while the substance might be against policy because of the THC content, does it have a high enough THC content to trigger a positive test result?

    1. Even though CBD oil is made from the stalks of the cannabis plant?as opposed to coming from the flowers, or “buds,” of the plant, like marijuana?and does not create the same effect of feeling “high” that comes from smoking or eating cannabis products with higher concentrations of THC, it can still contain trace amounts of THC, enough to violate the NCAA’s hardline anti-drug policy.

      Emphasis added.

      1. does it have a high enough THC content to trigger a positive test result?

        1. yes. but I have no data just “I know a CBD-only using chick who failed”

        2. According to the bolded quote, YES

      2. “Fortunately, the urine drug screen for THC-COOH is known to have very little cross-reactivity to other cannabinoids that are not intoxicating, such as CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBN (cannabinol), and others. This is good news for “normal” consumers of CBD/hemp oil.

        That said, individuals using unusually large doses of a cannabinoid-rich hemp oil product (above 1000-2000 mg of hemp oil daily) could theoretically test positive during the initial urinary screen. Although very rare, the urine screen in these cases would likely represent a “false positive” due to other non-THC metabolites or compounds, which may cross-react with the immunoassay. When this is the case, the confirmatory GC/MS test would be negative, since CBD and other cannabinoids will not be detected by the more accurate (and specific) GC/MS screen.”

        http://www.leafly.com/news/can…..for-thc-or

        I don’t know what test the NCAA uses. And the article begins to contradict itself later. It’s as if it were written by a stoner…

        1. According to Quest Diagnostics Director of Science and Technology, Barry Sample, CBD likely won’t show up on a drug test: “If the product contains only CBD and has had the THC removed, then an individual being tested would not be expected to test positive for marijuana or marijuana metabolite.”

          http://www.usdrugtestcenters.c…..o-cbd.html

          1. Yup. Nor is it disorienting in the same manner as THC.

            1. disorienting?

  5. “…That makes him ineligible to play college football, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ruled last week…”

    Nope, it’s not taking it, it was his honesty in having it on his med records.
    If using dope made you ineligible, football would probably have 5-man teams.

    1. If the dude had kept his mouth shut, he would likely never test positive.

      1. True. And the fact is that it is almost impossible to test for CBD and gain anything more than a reading, if that. All said and done the NCAA should be protecting the health of its athletes not banning them from competition because of a simple and effective treatment.

        Once again we see that with the NCAA it’s all about perception not reality

        1. Seems that they are the other group acting like they are more informed, than physicians, about CBD oil being a “drug”. I thought law enforcement would be the only group knowing more than anyone else, including physicians, on any subject related to cannabis or drugs!

          1. CBD is a drug. Alcohol and Tylenol are also drugs – and have killed many more people than marijuana in any form – but I don’t see the NCAA banning them.

  6. Interesting. You’d think if anything could help end the stupid drug war it would be the furtherance of college football.

  7. You can get pure CBD crystals.

    1. You can also buy CBD in capsule form. I’m looking at a bottle of CBD capsules right now.

  8. I’d like to challenge the statement that the NCAA is a “private institution”.

    Yes, that’s it’s nominal legal form, but the bulk of the body’s membership is government schools, and it would certainly become irrelevant to college athletics in short order if all government schools withdrew from it. The NCAA’s powers are accordingly the powers of government schools wielded by proxy.

    1. For once you make a valid point. However, this same argument has been made with respect to, among other athletic institutions, the NFL which is where it is today because of government subsidy. And nobody has gotten anywhere trying to apply Constitutional principles to the NFL because of that corrupt entanglement.

      1. An association of private universities (say, the Ivy League) could trace a lot of its money to government subsidy, too. But that’s not quite the same level of government-masquerading-as-a-private-entity.

        I note that few would consider an association of the fifty state Departments of Transportation and the US Department of Transportation, making rules that those departments were bound to implement, to constitute a “private institution”. Would that association magically transform into a “private institution” making private decisions if AAA and ten automakers were given memberships?

        1. The various NCAA conferences game the system by including at least 1 private institution.

          The SEC has Vanderbilt. The Big 10 has Northwestern. PAC 12 has Stanford and USC.

    2. True. The NCAA makes rules by which government schools can issue government scholarships. That can’t be a “private institution.”

  9. I wonder how this survives the Americans with Disabilities Act
    “reasonable accommodation”

    1. All that is needed is a half way decent pro bono lawyer – – – – – – –

    2. Well, the ADA mandates “reasonable accommodation” with the saving proviso that an employer retains the right not to hire someone if the situation implicates the ability of the entity to conduct its business safely. There’s no reason to think that the use of CBD in a case like this rises to that level, but it would break most anyone’s bank to litigate that case successfully. The experts alone would put you in the six-figure range. So yes, there probably is a valid ADA challenge but there is absolutely zero chance of finding any good litigator able to take it on.

  10. This is a really sad situation! It sounds like the CBD that he was using was full-spectrum which contains trace amounts of THC. As one user mentioned there are ‘pure CBD crystals’ out there, but these crystals don’t provide the full benefit found with whole-plant CBD products. Knowing he is using CBD to treat seizures, he likely needs the whole plant benefits of a full spectrum oil.

    Understanding that the NCAA is staying strong to a cut and dry rule, it’s just simply unfortunate that a player have to choose between a career and a life filled with seizures. Hopefully laws and the public perception around this topic changes soon!

    1. Speaking from personal experience it is hard (though not impossible) to obtain pure CBD. A common way to take these medicines is vaping, and all vaping mixtures are at least 5:1 or 7:1 (CBD to THC).

      1. I have to disagree. It is not hard to find at all. There are many, many companies out there selling CBD isolate. A quick google search and there are a wide range of products for sale that could be purchased immediately.

  11. What the hell, as long as he can stand straight for the National Anthem, let him play.

  12. Other sources are saying he was not cleared based on his epilepsy.

  13. How exactly does a private organization effectively fire a player for taking a legal medicine to treat a potentially life-threatening medical condition…without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act? After all, epilepsy is one of the medical conditions the ADA protects!

    1. Because football – – – – – –

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.