Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Monday, November 28, 2016

Medical Marijuana, Medical Exception?

State Marijuana Laws in 2016 (Post-Election)
Image Source: governing.com 

Here's what you should know as of the November 8 election:

  • There are now eight states that have passed laws permitting recreational use of marijuana: Maine, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. 
  • Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C. after ballot measures passed in North Dakota, Arkansas, Florida, and Montana. 
  • Federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 
  • Because of the DEA's imposed status, doctors can only "recommend" marijuana to patients. Federal law prohibits medical professionals from prescribing the drug. 
  • Rates of marijuana use in states that have legalized marijuana in some form have increased exponentially compared to those that have not. (Source, page 5)
  • The average THC concentrations in cannabis have continued to increase, while the medicinal, non-psychoactive ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD), has not. (Source

What this means for athletes:

  • Marijuana is still prohibited/banned in sport or considered a drug of abuse. 
  • Drug-testing sanctions for marijuana-positive tests, as designated by each sport organization, still apply in states where marijuana has been legalized. 
  • Marijuana's cannabinoids are stored in fat. The increasing potency of THC in marijuana means it can take longer for the drug to be metabolized and cleared from the body. (READ: Using marijuana over the holidays, and hoping for clean urine upon returning to practice is probably not the best idea.)
  • There are NO medical exceptions (MEs) or therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for marijuana in sport. Athletes will not be granted a ME or TUE, even if a doctor has "prescribed" marijuana.

Other athlete-health implications to consider:

  • Legalization of marijuana in Colorado has shown an increase in alcohol consumption—separately from the increase in marijuana-infused beers and wines on the market. (Source, page 26)
  • Post-legalization of marijuana: DUI cases related to driving while high, and traffic fatalities where the driver tested positive for marijuana have increased in Washington State and Colorado, respectively. (Source, pages 17-18)

Share your thoughts with us on social media (#EducateDrugFreeSport) or request a speaker on marijuana to educate your athletes!