Marijuana Prohibition Hurts The Oregon Ducks In NCAA Championship Game


The Oregon Ducks rode into the NCAA Football Championship has a 6 point favorite, behind a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, but the team was short-handed due to the suspension of two players, wide receiver Darren Carrington and backup running back (and a major special teams player) Ayele Forde,  who tested positive for marijuana use.

The loss of two key contributors compounded other injuries and problems and nothing should be taken away from the Ohio State team that won 42 to 20 and certainly seemed like the proverbial “team of destiny.” However, it would have been nice if Oregon wouldn’t have been distracted by an NCAA policy that is much more strict than the NFL or the Olympics and we wouldn’t be left to wonder whether the outdated policy cost a team a national championship..

The suspension of Carrington was especially problematic because the Ducks were already hurting at the wideout position and receivers that needed to step up in his absence didn’t, making some crucial drops. While Carrington ranked just fourth on the Duck in receiving yards and catches on the year, he had a monster game in the Rose Bowl against defending national champs Florida State, that got the Ducks to the title game.

It is ridiculous to assume that marijuana is a performance enhancing drug and while the NCAA has a right to its own policies, it’s threshold limit for marijuana use is drastically less than other sports. From Sports Illustrated:

The easiest way to quantify how strict the NCAA’s threshold is: Compare it to the threshold from other sports. The NFL increased its minimum threshold from 15 nanograms to 35 in September. The MLB’s minimum is 50 nanograms, the same level as airline pilots. The World Anti-Doping Agency set its minimum at 150 nanograms, a level at which an expert contacted by USA Today was quoted as saying, “[one has to be a] pretty dedicated cannabis consumer” to test positive.

From doing research and talking to experts, it’s difficult to pin down what flags a test at a given level. A daily smoker carries five nanograms of THC at most times. Mason Tvert, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, called the NCAA’s levels “a very, very low threshold.” He added, “Someone could fail even if they last used days or possibly weeks ago.”


So, does the NCAA need to change with the times? Seemingly, the answer is yes.

The country’s feelings and laws regarding cannabis are rapidly changing. Unfortunately, many long-standing institutions (hello, Congress) are very slow to adapt. As more states legalize cannabis for both medical and regular adult use, our institutions will finally catch up and marijuana won’t be treated any more harshly than alcohol or tobacco, regardless of the situation.

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.