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As of December 31, 2023, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officially removed cannabis from its list of banned substances for fighters. This revolutionary move highlights the progress sports organizations are making in moving away from the stigma associated with cannabis–everything from the NFL performing CBD trials for athletes to the NBA beginning to allow players to partner with certain marijuana brands.
However, progress isn’t always linear. In a somewhat confusing move, UFC athletes with an upcoming fight in California have been warned against using cannabis before the event. This is not a UFC policy but rather a state one put in place by the California State Athletic Commission. According to their rules, an athlete who receives a positive cannabis test over 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter is violating policy and is subject to fines.
The championship will be held on February 17 in Anaheim, and fighters have been told to discontinue cannabis use immediately to prevent any issues on weigh-in day.
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The UFC prides itself on its policies. “UFC’s goal for the Anti-Doping Policy is to be the best, most effective, and most progressive anti-doping program in all of professional sports,” stated UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell in a press statement on Dec. 28, 2023. It contrasts somewhat with the current World Anti-Doping Agency, which still recognizes cannabis as a banned performance-enhancing drug. The UFC hopes to influence this policy to change.
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that testing positive for cannabis would remove any fighters from competition. Instead, they would have to pay a $100 fine. Although these consequences are not severe, they still seem odd when considering recreational and medicinal cannabis are both legal in California.
While the policy is not likely to change before the championships this month, it will hopefully evolve over time as cannabis reform continues to spread throughout the United States and the world as a whole.