Published 1 day ago on May 1, 2023
By Kyle Jaeger
Nevada sports regulators have voted to send a proposed regulatory amendment to the governor that would formally protect athletes from being penalized over using or possessing marijuana in compliance with state law.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) met on Tuesday to consider the proposed change, which would codify a policy that was informally instituted in 2021. Members voted to put the cannabis reform through the administrative process to be adopted into its guidance, first sending it to Gov. Joe Lombardo (R).
The marijuana provisions are just some of the regulatory amendments that the commission has taken up as part of a comprehensive review that all state agencies are required to complete under an executive order from the governor.
NSAC, which regulates unarmed combat sports within the state, voted unanimously to stop penalizing professional fighters for testing positive for marijuana in 2021, but the policy hasn’t been integrated into the code. The new amendment would change that.
An analyst with the commission told Marijuana Moment that “while the proposed regulation change is included on the list provided to the Governor, before any regulation becomes effective, it will have to go through the formal regulatory adoption process outlined in the Nevada Administrative Code.”
“This process will include an opportunity for public comment and input,” they said. “For now, the Commission policy stands but no formal regulation on the policy has been adopted.”
While the proposed regulations would still say that the commission adopts the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances for athletes—which continues to include marijuana following the international governing body’s scientific review last year—they are seeking to add language to carve out an exception for cannabis for fighters in the state.
“The Commission does not classify cannabis or cannabis derived products as prohibited or banned substances under its program of drug testing and anti-doping that are included in one or more of the publications listed in subsection 1 provided such substances are legal for use or consumption under the laws of the State of Nevada,” the proposed amendment says.
Regulators are also looking to add a separate new section to the code that says the “possession, use, or consumption of cannabis or cannabis derived products shall not be deemed an anti-doping violation under this Chapter, regardless of the laws of the jurisdiction where such possession, use, or consumption occurs, provided such possession, use, or consumption is legal under the laws of the State of Nevada.”
It seems that would mean that athletes who consume marijuana in any state, no matter their cannabis laws, would not face sanctions as long as the activity is lawful under Nevada’s legalization policy.
Professional athletics organizations at multiple levels have been reassessing and reforming cannabis policies in recent years amid the state-level legalization movement.
For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is reportedly planning to remove cannabis from its banned substances list for players, as well as allow them to promote and invest in the industry.
The Chicago Cubs recently became the first Major League Baseball (MLB) team to officially partner with a CBD company, which follows the national organization’s league-wide partnership with a popular CBD brand last year.
MLB has stood out among other professional sports leagues as more willing to respond to the changing marijuana policy landscape. For example, it clarified in a memo in 2020 that players will not be punished for using cannabis while they aren’t working, but they can’t be personally sponsored by a marijuana company or hold investments in the industry.
UFC announced in 2021 that they would no longer be punishing fighters over positive marijuana tests.
Separately, student athletes that are part of the NCAA would no longer automatically lose their eligibility to play following a positive marijuana test under rules that are were recommended by a key committee last year.
The National Football League’s (NFL) drug testing policy already changed demonstrably in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, back in Nevada, the Assembly recently approved a resolution urging Congress to legalize marijuana, sending it to the state Senate.
Lawmakers have also taken up a proposal to increase the state’s cannabis possession limit and remove barriers to employment in the marijuana industry.
Last month, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a revised bill that would create a new working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.