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Nevada Athletic Commission rules that marijuana possession and use will not disqualify fighters

Zachary Bright
Zachary Bright
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The Nevada Athletic Commission — which regulates boxing and other unarmed combat — unanimously amended its anti-doping policy on Wednesday to no longer ban athletes for the use or possession of cannabis.

The changes come after track and field sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s recent suspension from the Tokyo Olympics because of drug testing that revealed marijuana use. Starting Wednesday in Nevada, athletes who test positive for recent marijuana use would not be automatically disqualified from their sport.

“I think being the gold standard with regard to combat sports — both MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and boxing — being a world-class destination, and having our state show the leadership and the fortitude in light of some of the recent circumstances we've all seen on television, we should be always at the forefront of these issues,” Commission Chair Stephen Cloobeck said during a meeting in Las Vegas.

The new changes mean drug tests that show more than the 150 nanograms of marijuana metabolites per milliliter limit would not disqualify a fighter. Still, athletes who show up noticeably intoxicated would still be barred from competition.

The commission decided to continue performing drug tests, but the data collected will remain confidential to the commission. After a six-month period, the board will revisit the topic of data collection to determine whether it’s something members want to continue.

“Additional information can only help us,” Commissioner Dallas Haun said, “and at the end of the day it's for the safety of the fighters.”

State leadership endorsed the revision to anti-doping policy, with officials from Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office writing the initial memorandum that opened the topic to discussion. Bob Bennett, the commission’s executive director, said that according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, marijuana does not appear to provide any benefits to athletes in competition. 

“Marijuana is considered to be a substance of abuse and not a performance enhancing drug,” he said. “I think our goal is to test performance enhancing drugs in an effort to ensure there's a level playing field.”

In Nevada, weed has been legal for recreational use since 2017. The state is also home to a multimillion-dollar mixed martial arts and boxing economy, with Las Vegas events drawing thousands of visitors and millions in revenue.

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