UFC Announces It Won't Punish Fighters for Marijuana Use

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIJanuary 14, 2021

Brett Carlsen

The UFC is starting 2021 with a major policy change.

On Thursday, UFC said it will no longer count positive tests for carboxy-THC—the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis—as a violation of its anti-doping policy, unless a fighter uses it with the intention of enhancing performance, Greg Beacham of the Associated Press reported.

Other cannabinoids that are a natural product of marijuana are no longer forbidden, though UFC fighters will still be required to comply with any drug policies established by the state athletic commissions or international governing bodies overseeing their fights.

"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," UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said. 

Athletes will not be allowed to fight under the influence, and the move comes as a nod to the alternative health benefits of the substance, according to Novitzky. 

"These amended rules are aimed at [holding cheaters accountable], and to continue our focus on preventing intentional cheating and not to unnecessarily punish athletes for behavior that does not impact the fairness or safety of competition," said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.

Per Beacham, the UFC is hoping to see state commissions also reduce penalties and relax their rules for marijuana use given the growing acceptance for recreational use.

In one of the more publicized cases, fighter Nick Diaz was suspended for five years by the Nevada Athletic Commission after he tested positive for marijuana following a fight at UFC 183 in January 2015. This was his third violation in Nevada.

His suspension was reduced to 18 months, and his fine was reduced by $65,000 to $100,000. He hasn't returned to the ring in six years.

In 2020, the Nevada Athletic Commission lowered its potential suspension time for marijuana use to six months.