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NCAA alters marijuana testing threshold

Starting Aug. 1, 2013, the NCAA will be implementing a more unforgiving testing threshold when it comes to marijuana usage.

Joe Robbins

The NCAA's marijuana testing threshold will become stricter to "more accurately identify usage among student-athletes," the organization's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports announced Friday

The NCAA currently tests for marijuana at its championships and bowl games at a threshold of 15 nanograms per milliliter. But following new research that shows intentional use of marijuana can be determined at a much smaller threshold, the NCAA will now test at five nanograms per milliliter starting Aug. 1, 2013.

In a corresponding move, the CSMAS is also recommending that the penalty for positive marijuana tests be knocked down from a full season to a half season. The NCAA penalty for marijuana usage is the same as the penalty for performance-enhancing drug, but the CSMAS doesn't consider that to be fair. Instead, the organization would prefer to offer student-athletes counseling and treatment while allowing them to remain in their athletics program.

Due to the legislative cycle of the NCAA, the proposed amendment would come no earlier than August 2014. With that timeline in mind, the NCAA could see a spike in year-long suspensions with its testing threshold lowering and the corresponding penalties lagging behind.