Florida Boxing Commission Ends Marijuana Testing

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The Florida Boxing Commission voted on Tuesday to remove marijuana from its list of banned substances, opening the door for combat sports fighters to use cannabis for non-performance enhancing purposes. The move follows recommendations from the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s new anti-doping policy announced earlier this year.

After the vote on Tuesday, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokesperson Patrick Fargason said that both boxers and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters would no longer be subject to drug screenings for cannabis in the state.

“We’re not testing for it,” Fargason told ESPN. “We’re not doing anything with it—period.”

Fargason added that if a fighter appears to be visibly impaired by marijuana at a competition, the commission will intervene. But blanket screenings for cannabis use will no longer be employed. Under the previous policy, a positive test for even trace amounts of cannabis would subject fighters in Florida to suspension, fines and overturned victories.

New Florida Policy Comes After UFC Change
The decision by the Florida Boxing Commission is in line with a recommendation from the ABC’s medical advisory committee and the UFC’s anti-doping policy, which is administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). In January, the USADA announced that UFC fighters would not be disciplined for positive tests for cannabis. Positive test results for any amount of THC would not violate policy “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”

“While we want to continue to prevent athletes from competing under the influence of marijuana, we have learned that blood and/or urine levels of carboxy-THC have little-to-no scientific correlation to impairment,” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said in a statement at the time. “THC is fat-soluble, meaning that once ingested, it is stored in fatty tissues and organs in the body and can be released back into the blood or urine, sometimes long after ingestion.”

Novitzky added that fighters will not be permitted to compete under the influence of cannabis. But instead of relying on drug test results, the UFC will use visual cues to determine if a competitor is impaired.

“The bottom line is that in regards to marijuana, we care about what an athlete consumed the day of a fight, not days or weeks before a fight, which has often been the case in our historic positive THC cases,” Novitzky said.

ABC Medical Panel Also Calls For Reform
Following the policy change from UFC and the USADA, an ABC medical advisory committee recommended that a first positive test above the World Anti-Doping Agency THC limit of 150mg/ml should carry a fine of only $100, which is in line with a policy initiated by the California State Athletic Commission. Subsequent positive tests would be subject to greater fines under the committee’s recommendation, which did not include suspensions or overturned victories for positive tests for THC.

A statement from the ABC noted that the committee “further states that THC is not a performance enhancing drug, it is a performance suppressor and athletes who test positive for THC should not be punished in the same manner as an athlete that tests positive for performance enhancing drugs.”

The new policy from the Florida Boxing Commission will only apply to boxing and MMA matches in that state. But the ABC’s medical advisory committee is planning to bring its recommendation to other state commissions at the association’s annual conference in July. The UFC’s Novitzky said on Tuesday he hoped the policy would then be widely adopted.

“Right move by FL Commission. They took a close look at the science behind THC excretion and saw it has little to no correlation to being impaired,” he tweeted. “Hopefully other commissions will follow FL’s lead and the recommendation of ABC Medical Committee.”