A National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committee recommended their governing bodies implement legislation to remove marijuana from their list of banned substances Friday, according to a press release from the NCAA.

The NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports — or CSMAS Committee, for short — recommended that its governing bodies at the DI, DII and DIII levels introduce and adopt legislation that would remove cannabinoids — the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis — from the list of NCAA banned drug classes.

Committee members, who met this week in Indianapolis, also recommended the development of a robust educational strategy to accompany a potential change to cannabinoid legislation.

From a broad perspective, the recommendation aims to re-center student-athlete health, while recognizing membership opinions and the changing cultural and legal landscapes surrounding cannabis.

According to the press release, the central points of the recommendation acknowledge the ineffectiveness of existing policies involving bans, testing and penalization, affirm the role of the NCAA drug-testing program as a program that aims to address only performance-enhancing substances, and emphasize the importance of moving toward a harm-reduction strategy that prioritizes education and support at the school level over penalties — much like how alcohol has been approached for decades.

The press release also said the rationale for considering the change was largely based on takeaways from the Dec. 2022 Summit on Cannabinoids in College Athletics, where experts came to the conclusion that cannabis isn’t a performance-enhancing drug and that a harm-reduction approach would be the best strategy for schools to implement moving forward.

In June, the CSMAS Committee showed its support for removing cannabinoids from the NCAA’s banned drug list and testing protocols with the intent to gather input from the membership this summer, with final action expected in the fall. However, last month, the NCAA Board of Governors asked the committee to head down a legislative path. 

“When making a decision on an important topic like this, we agree that the membership should have an opportunity to vote on the final outcome,” said James Houle, committee chair and lead sport psychologist at Ohio State University. “We are recommending a big shift in the paradigm when it comes to cannabinoids. We want to modernize the strategy with the most up-to-date research to give schools the best opportunity to support the health of student-athletes.”

The timing of discussion and adoption of possible legislation is a decision that will be made by the NCAA’s governing bodies at each divisional level.