They say college is a time to experiment and try new things; but for college athletes, trying new things, such as recreational marijuana, could end up putting their future careers in jeopardy. That is, until now. Back in February, the NCAA announced that they’re changing how they test for marijuana in college athletes.

Previously, athletes would fail a drug test if they had only 35 nanograms of cannabis per milliliter, but the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards decided to raise the amount of cannabis in an athlete’s system up to 150 nanograms per milliliter. This ruling became effective immediately and overturned any failed drug tests from Fall 2021 or later.

The reasoning given behind this decision is to align the NCAA’s policies with the acceptable marijuana levels set by the World Anti-Doping Agency as well as the changes in how our society currently views recreational and medical marijuana use in the US. The NCAA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brian Hainline was even said that they don’t view cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug and the NCAA has acted because of feedback from their members regarding how to properly support and educate their college athletes going forward.

On top of that, the committee also proposed and recommended that the NCAA’s individual sports divisions change the penalties if an athlete tests positive. Before the meeting, if an athlete tested positive for cannabis, they would have to sit out for half of their regular season and if they ended up testing positive a second time, they would end up missing the equivalent of an entire season.

But, the NCAA committee proposed at their February meeting a more lenient policy when it comes to marijuana use, though each sports divisions in the organization (Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc.) has to approve these new penalties on their own.

The policy in question would result in a college athletes still being eligible for regular-season competition after they test positive for the first time if their college provides them with an education and management plan relating to marijuana.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

If they end up testing positive again, they would still be eligible to compete but will have to participate in additional education and management and their college must confirm that they were compliant with their past education and management and will not be allowed to compete in the equivalent of a quarter of a regular-season if they were not compliant.

If they ended up testing positive for a third time, they would still be eligible after with another round of education and management and confirmation that they were compliant with the past education plans and treatment though they will not be allowed to participate for the equivalent of half of a regular season if they are found to have not been compliant with their plans from the two previous tests.

While these policy changes are clearly a step in the right direction, they are still not as lenient as most major league sports in the US when it comes to marijuana testing policies for athletes.

Currently, the NBA has suspended marijuana testing altogether, the MLB no longer has cannabis on its banned substance list, the NHL has loosed its rules when it comes to marijuana, and the NFL has gone so far as to fund research on the benefits of medical marijuana when it comes to concussions and other sports-related injuries.

Only time will tell how lenient the NCAA will become with its cannabis policies in the future but we can only hope things will get even better as time goes on. 

This news also follows a report last year that the NCAA will now allow college athletes to take NIL endorsements so they can profit off of sponsorships and other business relations.

Could these changes in policy lead to college athletes someday signing an endorsement deal for a cannabis dispensary as marijuana continues to become legalized across the country? No one know for sure, but with N’Kosi Perry, a quarterback for Florida Atlantic University, recently signing a deal with the Islamorada Beer Company, another substance banned by the NCAA, anything can be possible.

Works Cited
Radford, Chris. “Committee Adjusts THC Test Threshold.”, NCAA, 25 Feb. 2022,

Associated Press. “NCAA Relaxes Marijuana Testing Threshold, Recommends Lighter Penalties for Positive Tests.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 26 Feb. 2022,

Pelley, Aaron. “When Will a College Athlete Be Able to Sign a Nil Deal for CBD or Cannabis Company?” JD Supra, Cultiva Law, PLLC, 12 Jan. 2022,

AJ Favorito is a freelance writer, photographer, and filmmaker specializing in comedy and animation.