It's Now OK for UFC Fighters to Use Cannabis

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In a new policy effective retroactively to the beginning of 2021, the UFC has announced that it will no longer find fighters in violation of league policy if they test positive for THC in their urine. Part of the reason is that a urine test is not a very good way to determine whether someone ingested THC from cannabis.

Jeff Novitzky, UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, said in a statement that the league no longer wants to use urine tests to look for marijuana use, because THC can remain stored in body fat for weeks after use.  

“The bottom line is that in regard to marijuana, we care about what an athlete consumed the day of a fight, not days or weeks before a fight, which has often been the case in our historic positive THC cases,” Novitzky said.

In making this move, the UFC followed in the footsteps of most major sports leagues in North America. For example, the National Basketball Association recently announced it will not test players for marijuana use in the 2020-2021 season.

 UFC policy change

The new rule from the UFC states that fighters with THC in their bloodstream are not in violation of league policy, essentially opening the door to recreational use of marijuana. The only caveat is that the league will find players in violation if they use THC to improve their performance as fighters, although it’s unclear how that would be proven.

The UFC also removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances. In the news release, the UFC acknowledged CBD is “found in various products used widely by UFC athletes” and that “no evidence exists that they would provide any significant performance advantage.”

The UFC also acknowledged that CBD has no “health and safety consequences for competing UFC athletes.”

Other leagues have changed their policies, as well.

The UFC decision is part of a trend in the past year with Major League Baseball removing cannabis from its list of “drugs of abuse.” The latest came from the NBA, which announced it would continue to not test for marijuana in the current season, something the league started during the previous season while playing in “the bubble” in Orlando.

In a statement, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “Due to the unusual circumstances in conjunction with the pandemic, we have agreed with the [player’s association] to suspend random testing for marijuana for the 2020-21 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse.”

In addition to these changes, the National Football League announced it will no longer suspend players who test positive for marijuana. And the National Hockey Leagues players are researching whether cannabis might help treat concussions

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