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Nevada will no longer punish fighters for using marijuana

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Their decision won't help Sha'Carri Richardson.

But the most prominent regulatory body in combat sports has decided to stop punishing fighters for marijuana use. The Nevada State Athletic Commission announced on Wednesday that it has amended its anti-doping policy to exclude marijuana as a banned substance. 

NSAC executive director Bob Bennett cited a World Anti-Doping Agency policy that classifies marijuana as a substance of abuse rather than a performance-enhancing substance while discussing the decision in a conference call. 

“According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA considers marijuana to be a substance of abuse, not a performance-enhancing drug,” Bennett said, per MMA Junkie. “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.”

NSAC chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck, meanwhile, cited that fact that marijuana is legal in Nevada.

"We should always be at the forefront of these issues," Cloobeck said, per ESPN. "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."

Fighters were fined, suspended in the past

In the past, fighters were subject to suspensions of up to nine months and fined a percentage of their purses if they tested positive for marijuana. The NSAC suspended UFC fighter Nick Diaz for five years in 2015 after repeated positive marijuana tests. It also fined Diaz $166,500 — 1/3 of his $500,000 purse from his UFC 183 bout against Anderson Silva. After that decision prompted outrage, the NSAC eventually reduced his ban to 18 months and his fine to $100,000.

Now, six years later, NSAC doesn't care if fighters use marijuana, a sign of the rapidly changing norms around the drug, which is now legal for either recreational or medical use (or both) in 38 states

Former UFC lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz smokes during an open workout for fans and media at Honda Center on August 14, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)
Nate Diaz and his brother Nick won't have to worry about testing positive for marijuana in Nevada moving forward. (Kevork Djansezian/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

New rule won't help fighters who recently tested positive

The NSAC will continue to test for marijuana and collect data for the next six months, when it may reconsider its decision to do so. Fighters who show up to a fight impaired will not be allowed to compete. 

“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.

The policy was implemented Wednesday and will not apply retroactively to fighters who have recently been punished for positive tests. The NSAC decision arrives after the Florida State Boxing Commission stopped testing for marijuana in May. 

Nevada's policy change arrives amid an uproar over the suspension of Richardson, an American sprinter who received a one-month ban for a positive marijuana test after the U.S. team trials. Previously a medal favorite in the 100-meter dash and the 4x100 relay, she will not participate in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. 

Las Vegas is slated to host a pair of high-profile fight cards in the coming weeks. Saturday's UFC 264 will feature Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier. Heavyweight boxers Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury will complete their trilogy on July 24. 

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