NAC to examine marijuana’s place on banned substances list

Fighters hoping to toke up now that marijuana is mostly legal in Nevada shouldn’t hold their breath, though there may be hope on the horizon.

The state’s athletic commission voted unanimously Friday to begin what it called an open regulation project aimed at examining the drug’s place on the list of prohibited substances during a meeting at the Grant Sawyer Building.

Cannabis is currently banned by the commission for fighters in-competition, the period running from six hours before the competition to six hours after its completion, if more than 150 ng/ml is present in a fighter’s sample.

No change in the regulation would happen until the commission has time for research and workshops on the issue with a possible vote taking place in March or April.

Any ruling would have little to no impact on UFC events in the state. The organization has its own independent testing in place both in- and out-of-competition through the United States Anti-Doping Agency and there is no indication USADA has any plans of changing its regulations on the drug.

Still, NAC chairman Anthony Marnell believes it’s important the commission keep up with times. The issue became particularly pertinent when Nevada voters passed a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in November.

“At this time, I have no interest in the medical or non-medical benefits whatsoever of cannabis to anybody,” Marnell said during the meeting. “What I am interested in as the chairman of the (NAC) is to bring this to the attention of the commission that there may be, and there may not be, a potential conflict now of our state law as it pertains to our NSAC (regulations).

“All I want to do is be out in front of this and not behind it. And I do not want to be in a position where I have fighters before us making an argument — because it will come, so I will get out in front of them — that this is legal now so this 150 nanograms per milliliter is no longer legal. I don’t want to get into that discussion today, but you can see the controversy coming.”

The NAC has handed down harsh discipline for positive marijuana tests in the past.

Multi-time offender Nick Diaz got a five-year suspension in 2015, though it was reduced to 18 months on appeal. Boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. got nine months and a $900,000 fine, though that was later reduced to $100,000, for his second offense in 2013.

Marnell isn’t sure there will be any rule changes to come out of this process, but realizes the NAC is one of the most prominent athletic commissions in the world and wants to make sure it is at the forefront of the industry.

“From a cannabis perspective, I think we have (a potential conflict),” he said. “What I’m recommending to our commission is that we move forward with – I guess I would call it an open regulation project.”

Dr. J. Daniel Carpenter, one of the newest commissioners, believes the issue is worth exploring.

“As a physician surgeon, I’m not for marijuana,” he said. “I’m actually against it on personal reasons. As a Nevadan and as a physician on the Nevada Athletic Commission, I do not see it as a performance-enhancing drug in any way, shape or form.”

NAC executive director Bob Bennett will lead the initiative.

Review-Journal videographer Heidi Fang contributed to this report.

Contact Adam Hill at or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

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