The National College Athletic Association (NCAA), the non-profit responsible for regulating college athletics in more than twelve-hundred institutions across the United States, released a report in 2014 which revealed that cannabis was the most popular substance used among college athletes.
Over the last decade, more than one-third of the athletic programs within the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) have relaxed their punishments for positive marijuana tests, according to a recent Associated Press report.
By examining the drug policies of 57 of the 65 schools, it was determined that 23 of those universities have reduced positive test penalties or created policies which allow for more positive tests before disciplinary action is taken.
The Big Ten and the Big 12 control their own drug screens, along with the school and NCAA tests already in place. The other three conferences only require their student-athletes to face drug testing through the school and NCAA, and the NCAA has cut its penalty in half for drugs considered recreational, such as marijuana.
As the public view on marijuana has continued to change as states and cities have began making cannabis legal or decriminalized, it appears that the NCAA has been taking a similar stance with its young athletes. With four states legalizing marijuana use, including Oregon and Colorado where a number of Pac-12 schools are located, lessened disciplinary actions for a positive test makes sense.
Dr. Brian Hartline, the NCAA medical chief, believes the organization should spend more time focusing on testing for performance-enhancing drugs, and allow each individual university to decide how to handle disciplinary actions for recreational substances like cannabis.
“If we’re going to test at championship events for things that are illegal, then we shouldn’t just test for pot. If there are any kids under the age of 18 smoking cigarettes, we should test for that. We certainly should be testing for alcohol for everyone under the age of 21,”
“Then we ask ourselves, ‘Where does the moral authority stop?’ I’m all for moral authority as long as there is a philosophical consistency to it.”
The conferences, as well as the NCAA, have begun to focus on making recreational drug violations more of a rehabilitative situation, rather than strictly disciplinary. They are also working to make PEDs and other substances more of a focus through testing.