On Nov. 6, Michigan voters comfortably passed Proposal 1, which declared the sale, distribution and use of recreational marijuana legal. Adult marijuana users will be able to purchase the drug legally around early 2020.
Given the 12 percentage-point margin by which the proposal was passed, it’s no surprise that many Michiganders saw reason to celebrate. Many laws surrounding the use of marijuana remain in question for college student-athletes.
Under NCAA guidelines, marijuana remains an “illicit drug” and is, therefore, illegal for student-athletes. The NCAA also places responsibility on its member academic institutions to conduct drug tests at any point during the given season. If an athlete tests positive for any “street drug” on the banned substance list, marijuana included, the athlete will be withheld from competition. The percentage of season ineligibility varies from school to school.
Now that marijuana use is becoming legalized and more widely-accepted throughout the country, will the NCAA decide to follow suit?
This past summer, CBS reported on whether or not the NCAA was starting to soften its policies regarding marijuana in response to increasing state level acceptance. The team in focus was the Rutgers University football program, which had many players test positive for marijuana use. This would usually result in a heavy suspension, but the university decided to soften the penalties for marijuana, citing their increasing concern for other drugs that improve performance.
What’s seen at schools like Rutgers is a subliminal slip-under-the-rug when it comes to athletes and marijuana. As the conversation regarding legalization has become more open and nationally recognized, institutions are finding a better reason to lessen punishments in light of newer state regulations.
Many collegiate student-athletes consequently find themselves in a gray area in regards to whether or not marijuana policies will stand in light of increasing legalization trends. This confusion is all the more prevalent in Michigan.
Albion College athletic director Matt Arend believes that institutions such as Albion will have more answers on the relationship between athletics and legal marijuana once clarity is given at the federal level.
“The thing to keep in mind is that the NCAA goes by the federal standard, and as member institutions, we are expected to provide student-athletes with education regarding the circumstances of marijuana-related suspensions,” Arend said. “As of now, we don’t foresee our policies changing.”
For Albion College student-athletes, if you test positive for marijuana once, you receive a suspension for 10 percent of the season. A second positive test will result in 50 percent, with a third resulting in termination from one’s respective sport.
“If we get to a point where the federal level addresses legal marijuana on college campuses, that’s when you would see the possibility of some changes,” Arend explained.
Per an email from Campus Safety, Albion College students should also note that, despite the passing of Proposal 1, marijuana will still be banned on campus due to the college receiving federal funding.