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Florida drops marijuana from athletic commission prohibited list following UFC 261

It sounds like fighters in the Sunshine State won’t have to worry about getting busted for weed anymore, when they compete under the state athletic commission’s purview.

A worker handles a cannabis plant in a greenhouse in Thailand.
A worker handles a cannabis plant in a greenhouse in Thailand.
Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

Back in January the UFC and USADA made a joint announcement on the future of the promotion’s drug testing protocols. Namely, they effectively scrapped any and all testing for THC metabolites (barring signs of clear and obvious physical impairment on fight night), the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

That didn’t mean that fighters were entirely clear of any potential punishment for toking up in the days and weeks before fight night, however. They still had to contend with state athletic commissions, who each have their own set of standards as to what will and will not be tested for in the days surrounding competition.

Fortunately, it already looks like at least one state is following the UFC’s lead, and dropping marijuana from their prohibited list. Just over a week after playing host to UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal 2, Florida has reportedly taken the move to stop testing fighters for marijuana metabolites. That news comes from Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole, and was confirmed by UFC Drug Czar Jeff Novitzky.

Of course, the bulk of the UFC’s events still take place under Nevada jurisdiction, which has yet to abolish testing for marijuana—despite the fact that weed was legalized in the state back in 2017. The NSAC did raise their threshold for a drug test failure from 50 nanograms of cannabis metabolites to 150 back in 2013. But even as recently as November of last year, fighters were still seeing victories overturned due to failed drug tests. Hopefully, Florida’s change in policy helps trigger more states to remove outdated regulations around marijuana use from their books.

“That’s the next mode we’re stepping into after we announce these changes,” Novitzky told MMA Fighting back in January, when asked about lobbying state commissions to change policies. “In fact, we’ve started already with athletic commissions. Sharing this science with them. I had a great call with [executive director] Andy Foster of California a couple of hours ago letting him know here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it. He showed a great amount of interest.”

Before long, it could be that fighters getting punished for marijuana use will be entirely a thing of the past. Until then, Florida’s decision seems like a big step in the right direction.