Athletic Performance: What’s weed got to do with it?


“I just love weed man!” said former NCAA college athlete Nate Jacob. 

Like many other college athletes, Jacob was once part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association at his school. The NCAA, according to their website, is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.” Since 1910, the NCAA has overseen sports programs at nearly 1,098 colleges and universities in the United States. 

According to the NCAA commitment rule guide, college athletes must follow strict regulations to play and maintain participation in a specific collegiate sport. This includes maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA. Student athletes are encouraged to refrain from getting paid or receiving special treatment because of their sport capability. They must also obey the “discouraging alcohol and other drug abuse” rule set by the NCAA. 

Each student athlete is required to sign off on these rules before the start of every new season. 

“I knew what the rules were,” Jacob said. No smoking, no drinking — while in season. But I don’t understand why, if I’m of age I was randomly chosen from my team to take a drug test, at the end of my season back in 2018, and I did not pass.”

According to the NCAA Division II, which San Francisco State University is part of, marijuana is considered a performance enhancement drug.

“The NCAA Sport Science Institute hopes to foster a healthy and productive experience for college athletes. In addition to performance-enhancing drugs, alcohol and other recreational drug use can impact the health and well-being of student-athletes. The SSI encourages college athletes to be aware, ask questions, make safe choices and to stay healthy and drug free.” the NCAA Sport Science website states.

Although marijuana is legal in certain states, it is also completely illegal in others. According to the D1 Sports and Athletics website, in the USA marijuana is fully illegal in 11 of the 50 states. 

“Weed isn’t legal everywhere,” said Vanessa Jimenez, Division II softball coach at Salem University. “So when I hear students who come from California talk about how they think the NCAA should change their rules for legalizing marijuana, they have to understand the NCAA is across the board, and if certain schools can’t do it, then none can.”

But according to the NCAA website, of “Health and Safety,” marijuana isn’t the only banned substance for collegiate athletes. The NCAA also does not allow stimulants, anabolic agents, alcohol and beta blockers, narcotics, cannabinoids or peptide hormones, growth factors related substances and mimetics.

“I want my athletes in the best health, so they can perform at their very best. And doing any kind of drugs is not going to help them get there. I am very against the use of drugs, no matter if it’s legal or not,” Jimenez said. 

Coaches and the NCAA allow certain over the counter drugs to be used, such as anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil. Even if an athlete has a legitimate medical card for marijuana, the NCAA forbids the athlete from smoking weed. 

“We go by Federal laws,” NCAA worker Nancy Rogers said. “Even though you are able to buy weed in certain parts [of the country] now, you still can’t take it to certain places such as airports, and we go by that as well. If you want to smoke, you can. But you can’t smoke and compete for the NCAA.” 

However, some student athletes seem to think otherwise.

“So I believe that in the state of California [where weed is legal] athletes should be able to smoke it if they are of age, and shouldn’t be penalized for having weed in their system,” Sophia Stephen, Track and Field runner at Cal State Pomona, said. “I do however believe that there should be consequences taken if an athlete is showing up to practice high, and it’s becoming a problem with the way they are performing.”

According to the NCAA, it has been proven that the intake of marijuana can, and will affect the way you are performing in school, at work and while competing. 

“We want our students in the best shape and form they can be, and no drug, legal or not, is going to help them get to that point. That’s why we don’t allow smoking, even if a student has a marijuana card. There are other ways of dealing,” said Rogers. 

Despite efforts to decriminalize and legalize weed gaining steam, there are no signs that the NCAA is willing to reconsider allowing student athletes to consume marijuana. 

Jimenez feels there is no reason to change the rules as there is nothing wrong with the current system.

“Why try to fix something that isn’t broken?” Jimenez said.