LAS VEGAS — The most significant regulator of combat sports has made a huge move in the way it deals with marijuana.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) voted Wednesday to no longer discipline fighters for cannabis. NSAC, which regulates some of the most high-profile boxing and MMA fights in the world, joins the Florida State Boxing Commission, which stopped testing for marijuana completely in May. The new policy begins Wednesday and is not retroactive to cases that have yet to be adjudicated.
“We should always be at the forefront of these issues,” NSAC chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck said. “I believe it’s warranted and merited since it is legal in this state. … I think we need to jump forward, being the leader as we’ve always been.”
The NSAC will continue to test for marijuana for data purposes over the next six months, and a determination will then be made whether that data collection will continue.
The commission was given the leeway to make the decision to not discipline for marijuana via a memo from Nevada Senior Deputy Attorney General Edward Magaw, who was at the meeting. Magaw said that the vote will represent a change in policy immediately and will later be reflected in the commission’s written regulations.
Two UFC fighters were suspended by the NSAC on Wednesday due to positive tests for cannabis related to their March fights in Las Vegas. Gillian Robertson was suspended for 4½ months and fined $2,000, and Misha Cirkunov was suspended for six months and fined $4,000. Robertson is eligible to return Aug. 10, and Cirkunov can come back Sept. 13.
Previously, the NSAC suspended fighters up to nine months and fined them a percentage of their purse for positive in-competition drug tests for cannabis above 150 nanograms per milliliter. But the commission has had an inconsistent history when it comes to cannabis. In 2015, it voted to suspend UFC fighter Nick Diaz for five years for repeated positive drug tests for marijuana. That suspension was later reduced to a year and a half after appeal.
The UFC, under its anti-doping program with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), essentially removed discipline for marijuana in January. Per UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky, fighters would only receive sanctions for marijuana use if they were visibly under the influence on fight nights.
States such as California and New York still test fighters for marijuana but have minimal penalties for positive tests.
Marijuana in sports has been in the news lately. Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended for a month by the USADA for a positive marijuana test and was rendered ineligible to compete in the Olympics in her signature event, the 100 meters.