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Cannabis and Basketball: The Impact of Cannabis on NCAA Recruitment

By Danyal Swan March 8, 2024

Cannabis has been linked to a multitude of groups. From Gen Z to seniors to millennials, white-collar to blue-collar employees, your typical "stoners" to medical users. But what about athletes – what about cannabis and basketball?

A study published in 2023 may have found a link between the two, particularly as it relates to the National College Athletic Association (NCAA).

A recent study from Georgia College & State University and Kennesaw State University reveals that marijuana legalization has a significant impact on college sports recruitment, affecting basketball and football differently.

According to their research, published in the Journal of Sports Economics, basketball teams in states with legal cannabis see improved recruitment, moving up an average of 3.7 slots in rankings. This improvement is considered substantial, as effective as hiring a new coach. In contrast, football teams in these states experience a downturn, dropping an average of 2.9 slots in recruitment rankings.

The study suggests the influence of national league policies on athletes' attitudes toward marijuana, with the NBA's more lenient approach possibly encouraging prospective basketball players. The impact on football is attributed to the NFL's stricter stance, which might deter players from engaging with cannabis. Cultural acceptance within the basketball community may also play a role. The findings imply that as more states legalize marijuana, basketball programs could see benefits, while football might face challenges, particularly in states with recent legalization.

What is the NCAA's Stance on Marijuana?

The NCAA has made strides in favor of the plant. In February 2022, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports increased the THC threshold for college athletes to match that of the World Anti-Doping Agency. A positive THC test was upped from 35 to 150 nanograms per millimeter, making anything under 150 a negative test. The committee made new recommendations regarding penalties as well:

  • After the initial positive test, athletes retain their eligibility with adherence to a provided educational and management plan.
  • Following a second positive test, athletes remain eligible if they followed the initial plan; non-compliance results in missing 25% of season games.
  • For a third positive, compliance with prior plans maintains eligibility; otherwise, athletes face a 50% season suspension.

And in September 2023, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports took their stance a step further. They formally recommended that marijuana be removed from the banned substances list.

What is the NBA's Stance on Cannabis?

Though the plant was still on the list of Prohibited Substances, the NBA halted random THC testing when games resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Random testing remained on hold throughout the 2022 season, and the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement made these changes official.

The 2023 CBA removed marijuana from the Prohibited Substances List completely. Testing, too, has been removed for the plant, though use remains prohibited during team events and games. Guidelines have been put in place for those suspected of using in these events,

As the researchers noted, this new lax approach to cannabis use within the NBA – the ideal next step for NCAA basketball players – may be a contributing factor to the increased recruitment of college basketball players in recreational markets.

Sports Organizations that Welcome Weed

The NBA isn't the only organization to become wise to the benefits of the plant. From outright removal from banned substances lists to testing with no penalty with positive test, these major sports orgs have begun to welcome weed:

  • The UFC formally removed cannabis from the banned substances list, does not test for cannabinoids, and allows sponsorship of fighters by cannabis brands.
  • Major League Baseball has removed cannabis from its list of banned substances and no longer tests for cannabinoids.
  • The National Women's Soccer League does not test for cannabis and allows sponsorship of players by cannabis brands.
  • The Premier Lacrosse League does not test for cannabis.
  • The National Hockey League does test for cannabis, but players are not fined for a positive test. Excessive amounts of THC found, though, requires a treatment plan.

With the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports' formal recommendation to remove marijuana from the banned substances list, they may be soon to join the list.

The Changing Cannabis Landscape

It seems each year (and in some cases each month), laws, rules, and regulations at state and organizational levels are changing regarding the cannabis plant. With recent calls to reschedule cannabis, increasing research confirming its benefits, and the general swaying of public opinion in favor, these changes are sure to increase over time. Stay tuned in to the MÜV blog for updates regarding cannabis rules and regulations, and of course, shop your local MÜV Dispensary for your cannabis needs basketball season and beyond.


  1. Evans, B A, Clark, C, & Pitts, J D (2024). The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on NCAA Men’s Basketball Recruiting. Journal of Sports Economics, 25(2), 200-216.
  2. NBA (2023, June 28). NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement – key deal points.
  3. Reynolds, T (2021, October 7). NBA will not randomly test players for marijuana again this season.

Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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