The Nevada Athletic Commission has changed its rules on marijuana use and detection in favor of fighters.
On Wednesday, the governing body that oversees combat sports events in the state voted to approve an amended anti-doping policy, which excludes marijuana use or detection as punishable offenses.
During a near 40-minute conversation held via conference call, commission members discussed details before the language of the rule was formulated and approved.
“According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA considers marijuana to be a substance of abuse, not a performance-enhancing drug,” Bob Bennett said. “I think our goal is to test for performance-enhancing drugs to ensure a level playing field. The fact that it is not a performance-enhancing drug, I do not believe we should test for it any longer.”
One exception to the “no punishment” policy is if a fighter shows up impaired on fight night, like with alcohol, commission officials will not permit that individual to compete.
While combatants won’t be punished for marijuana, the commission will continue to test for it over the next six months for “internal purposes,” usage it compared to its ongoing brain studies. In six months, the commission will vote on an extension of the testing.
“If we don’t test for it, we lose a significant amount of data over a significant period of time that may be educational to the commission and its doctors,” commissioner Anthony Marnell said on the call.
While the rule was proposed to be implemented “semi-retroactively,” commissioner Marnell took exception with the liability that came with dismissing pending marijuana offenses that aren’t yet been ruled upon. After some discussion, the board unanimously backed Marnell’s suggestion that a hard date, July 7, 2021, be set as the line between suspend-able and non suspend-able offenses.
“You have people that were fighting under a different set of rules at that time that are now off the hook because of a (regulatory) change post-their infraction,” Marnell said. “My opinion is that it should be from this point forward any positive test fall under this new rule because we have been caught in a jam before for not giving enough notice to the world. … In this tweener stage, a lot of people are going to cry foul for people that got off the hook, which is now down to a 90-day penalty, which isn’t a hook anyway.”
Newly elected chairman Stephen Cloobeck added, “I think we’re opening ourselves up to, potentially, a lawsuit with anything like this that we vote on. That’s just my opinion, my experience, (and) my life, because you can sue anyone for anything.”
As a result of the rejection of the final policy’s retroactivity, UFC fighters Gillian Robertson and Misha Cirkunov were suspended and fined moments after the new marijuana policy was approved.
Robertson tested positive for carboxy-THC stemming from the timeline of her March 27 loss to Miranda Maverick. She was fined $3,145.36 and will be eligible to return Aug. 10 after a four-and-a-half-month retroactive suspension.
Cirkunov also was flagged for a positive carboxy-THC sample collected for his March 13 knockout loss to Ryan Spann. He was fined $4,145.36 and will be eligible to return Sept. 13 after a six-month retroactive suspension.
The NAC becomes the latest in a wave of combat sports commissioning bodies to change its policy pertaining to marijuana. The mass amendments, which have also occurred in California and Florida in recent months, come in the wake of the UFC’s anti-doping partner, USADA, changing its testing policies – and the ABC, the association of commissioning bodies, changing its recommendations.
Nevada’s decision was applauded by Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s senior vice president of athlete health and performance.
“How about that! NSAC no longer sanctioning for marijuana,” Novitzky wrote on Twitter. “Crazy that in my tenure with UFC I’ve seen NSAC try to suspend Nick Diaz for life for marijuana, to this. Big credit to Exec Director Bob Bennett for spearheading this change. Just don’t show up to fight impaired!”
The change occurs the same week UFC 264: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3 is set to take place at T-Mobile Arena, and two-and-a-half weeks prior to the blockbuster boxing trilogy between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.