Nevada Considers Removing Marijuana Ban from Combat Sports


Update January 13, 2017 – The meeting has now taken place and the NAC unanimously voted in support of item 10


Arguably no substance has resulted in more controversial athletic commission disciplinary decisions than marijuana.  Sober fighters testing positive for marijuana metabolites which could have been consumed many days prior to competition have been handed stiff fines and penalties with much public backlash.

Interestingly, the Nevada Athletic Commission, who have been behind some of the most controversial decisions are considering outright removing marijuana as a banned substance.

In addition to voting on whether to adopt the ABC’s updates to MMA’s unified Rules, the NAC’s agenda for their January 13 meeting notes the following (item 10)

Discussion regarding whether to direct the Executive Director to initiate a regulation project under Nevada Revised Statutes(NRS) chapter 233B to possibly amend Nevada Administrative Code (NAC) chapter 467 to include the following potential changes: 1) the possible exclusion of cannabinoids from the list of Prohibited Substances and Methods pursuant to passage of Nevada Ballot Initiative Question 2 (2016); 2) incorporation by reference of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports’ Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts; and 3) any other changes to NAC 467 as deemed appropriate and necessary by the Commission, for possible action.

This suggestion, if followed, would be a welcome development. Marijuana, alcohol and other so called ‘drugs of abuse’ are not performance enhancing.  Intoxicating substances are only banned in competition in the combat sports world for the safety of the fighter consuming them.  No regulator will allow a fighting athlete to compete while impaired and little argument can be made against this objective.

As previously discussed commissions can fulfill this goal by relying on the integrity of pre bout medical screenings.  Physicians are present at regulated events.  It would take little time and effort for a once over to ensure no competitor is about to fight while showing signs of impairment.  If a fighter is not objectively impaired in any way and satisfies physicians present then the regulator’s legitimate safety concerns are meaningfully met.  Allowing a bout to take place, on the other hand, and finding traces of substances that could have been consumed days or weeks prior, misses this objective and is a practice which regulators should seriously consider re-evaluating.


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