The NCAA has decided not to punish student-athletes as harshly for the use of marijuana after determining that it is not a performance-enhancing substance.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported the news on Wednesday afternoon:
NCAA concludes that marijuana isn't performance enhancing. Cheech, Chong and Cheetos, thank you. http://t.co/XpxjlLd0zA— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) April 16, 2014
In his article, Dodd points to the recent rule change earlier in the week that allows expanded meal allowances for student-athletes. Another additional point the NCAA committee made was that the punishment for testing positive for marijuana would be reduced because it is not a performance-enhancing substance.
Here's a look at the new rule change from the report:
The penalty for testing positive for street drugs, including marijuana, will be reduced to half a season from a full season. Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation.
While this is a huge change, it also doesn't change the law in many states. In the few states where the substance is actually legal—such as Colorado—the punishment may not appear to be as harsh.
As for any other state where it is not legal, running the risk of a suspension and arrest might be a little more harsh. USA Today also recently ran a study that shows casual use of marijuana can still affect brain cells:
Marijuana: "Just casual use appears to create changes in the brain in areas you don't want to change," doctor says, http://t.co/pD8BbzCEaD— USA TODAY Health (@USATODAYhealth) April 16, 2014
Back in August 2012, Jeremy Morris of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office in Kansas spoke about the usage of synthetic marijuana, per Dodd:
The drug testing has not caught up. We're just now figuring out how to test for some of the original compounds. If you're a college student and you really like to do drugs and you don't want to get caught, go ahead and use these. They're not going to catch you. [...]
You don't die of a heart attack smoking marijuana. Kids are dying from smoking synthetic marijuana.
Is reducing the suspension the best idea?
Whether or not this will change the way that student-athletes approach using the substance will be seen over time. Reducing the punishment might cause more players to think about trying marijuana, but sitting out for half a season is still a costly suspension.
As Dodd points out, the NCAA only tests for substances leading up to huge events such as bowl games or the NCAA tournament, which come at the end of their respective seasons, so athletes can easily avoid being caught smoking pot. Any potential punishment, then, would come ahead of the following season. As a result, thinking about the repercussions for the next season might not be the biggest concern for some athletes.
The use of pot leading up to a game or even a practice still might affect the way the game is played for an individual athlete, even though being caught comes with a much lesser punishment now.
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