AZ: How Would Legalized Marijuana Affect ASU Sports?


In less than three months, Arizona residents likely will vote on Proposition 205, deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

No matter which direction this goes, not much is expected to change within Arizona State athletics – at least in the short term.

Just last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced marijuana – for any intended purpose – will remain illegal under federal law, which means it will remain an illegal substance on college campuses.

Even so, it’s clear the country’s opinion on marijuana use is changing. According to The Washington Times, four states – including three in the Pac-12 footprint – as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational use of marijuana through voter referendums. At least nine more will have marijuana initiatives on November ballots.

In a spring interview with azcentral sports, ASU Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson said moving forward it’s important for schools and the conference to keep an open mind.

“Some of the opinions about how serious marijuana is are starting to change,” Anderson said. “… I think that’s going to force people to re-think their position, and this conference will be no different. We can’t put our heads in the sand and believe that the world is not changing, so that discussion is going to be had. And there may be some lifting of some of the prohibitions about marijuana at some point in the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

In recent years, Colorado, Oregon and Washington all have adopted recreational-use laws, but the Pac-12 schools within those states say those changes haven’t caused much confusion within their locker rooms

“Not really,” Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It’s definitely something that’s against the law on our campus. The NCAA drug tests, we drug test, so it’s not different than it would be anywhere else. I guess it’s an issue that you have to deal with daily.”

According to a 2015 Associated Press investigation, at least one third of the Power Five conference schools are not punishing student-athletes as harshly for testing positive for marijuana and other recreational drugs as they did 10 years ago.

In addition, the NCAA in 2014 reduced its penalty for those who fail screenings at NCAA championship events from one season to half a season. Many within college sports want to make testing policies more rehabilitative than punitive, an idea Alabama football coach Nick Saban endorsed at the SEC Spring Meetings in June.

Particularly irksome to Saban: The NCAA’s testing of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

“What good does it do a guy that got tested in December to suspend him six games next September?” said Saban, according to “Is this changing behavior? Discipline is not just punishment. It’s changing someone’s behavior so they have a chance to have more success and have a better chance to be successful. … There’s greater things besides just punitive action that need to be done to resolve this issue with young people. It may not be resolvable, but we can take steps to try to help people. That’s what I would be for.”

For the most part, Pac-12 schools are free to implement their own policies. This can create confusion. For example, ASU men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley has a stricter policy in place at ASU than the one he had at Buffalo, where he coached from 2013-2015.

Last month, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told azcentral sports that the conference continues to discuss the implementation of a conference-wide testing policy, but the different state laws among the conference’s membership – and the fact that not all Pac-12 schools are public institutions – makes it difficult.

“I do think there would be some benefit, an across-the-board policy, on a lot of different levels,” Scott said. “… We’ve found it to be complex waters to navigate, but we keep putting it on the agenda to discuss it.”

For now, ASU randomly drug tests its student-athletes, but it also gives coaches freedom to drug test everyone as they see fit. For example, football coach Todd Graham drug tests every player in the program.

“You would be pretty hard-pressed to find somebody that tests more than we do,” Graham said.

ASU has a three-strike policy.

A first failed test results in education. A licensed counselor tries to determine if the drug use is recreational or a symptom of a more serious issue. The athletic department then provides the appropriate support.

“Coaches have discretion to do whatever they like with that information,” said Jean Boyd, a senior associate athletic director at ASU. “If someone has a positive screen, someone might say we might sit you down for a competition because that’s a part of our philosophy. They have that discretion.”

A second failed test results in a suspension of 10 percent of the athlete’s season. A third failed test results in dismissal from the program.

“We review (the policy),” Boyd said. “We just had Drug Free Sport, which is one of the main testing agencies for different universities, review our policy and they gave us some feedback. They said we’re certainly in alignment with our colleagues at our level and that we don’t stand out in any particular way. And maybe we’re a little advanced.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: How Would Legalized Marijuana Affect ASU Sports?
Author: Doug Haller
Contact: 602-444-8000
Photo Credit: David Wallace
Website: The Arizona Republic