There's a changing culture in the United States when it comes to the use of marijuana and the legalization of the drug.
Several states like California and Nevada have made medical marijuana legal for users with a doctor's prescription, and in the last election cycle in 2012, states such as Colorado and Washington made the purchase and sale of marijuana completely legal.
In athletics, marijuana is still treated as a banned substance and listed as a performance enhancing drug punishable by similar suspensions and fines as competitors who test positive for substances like steroids.
In 2011, UFC welterweight Nick Diaz tested positive for marijuana for a second time following his fight against Carlos Condit at UFC 142. Previously, when Diaz tested positive in 2007, he was suspended for six months and fined $3000.
The second infraction, however, brought down a much stiffer penalty as Diaz was suspended for one year from active competition and fined $60,000 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. In maybe an even more absurd move, boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. recently tested positive for marijuana and was suspended nine months and fined $900,000 as a penalty.
It was the fighter's second positive test overall (Chavez tested positive for a diuretic in 2009), but this was the first for marijuana and the fine handed down came close to $1 million.
Recently, several other fighters in the UFC have also tested positive for marijuana including Dave Herman, Alex Caceres and Matt Riddle. All were suspended from competition, but as time moves on, will the rules surrounding marijuana and athletic commissions finally change?
WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), the recognized leader in drug testing for athletics, has gone on the record stating that it is looking at a potential change to their policy that lists marijuana as a performance enhancing drug and may be removed from the banned list all together. While the rule has not changed yet, WADA officials are considering the change, and it appears the trickle-down effect is starting to reach athletic commissions in America as well.
During a meeting held on Thursday at the Nevada State Athletic Commission, UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner spoke about the need to revisit the rules surrounding marijuana and its current ban as a performance enhancing drug.
"Society is changing, it's a different world now than when I was on the commission. States are legalizing marijuana and it's becoming more and more of a problem with fighters testing positive and the metabolites," said Ratner.
Ratner believes the discussion has to happen, because as laws continue to change and marijuana is becoming less and less of an illegal drug with little to no proof of its use as an actual performance enhancer, competitors likely shouldn't be punished the way they are currently.
"I think it's something that has to be discussed on a commission level now," said Ratner. "Right now I just cannot believe that a performance enhancing drug and marijuana can be treated the same. It just doesn't make sense to the world anymore and it's something that has to be brought up."
The commissioners attending the meeting agreed with Ratner's statement, but said that more research needed to be done and they would agree to talk further about the subject at their next meeting.
The commission typically meets about every 30 days to discuss various issues and licensing hearings, and at that time they will reconvene and discuss the topic of marijuana in sports at that time.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted