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Nevada commission begins regulation projects looking at marijuana, new Unified Rules of MMA

nick diaz
Nick Diaz was once suspended five years (bumped down to 18 months) for cannabis by the Nevada Athletic Commission
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) will be taking a hard look at removing marijuana from its banned substance list.

At its monthly meeting Friday, the NAC unanimously voted to begin an open regulation project regarding cannabis as a prohibited drug. Commission chairman Anthony Marnell said, following research and workshops, a special hearing would be held in March or April to vote on whether to keep or remove cannabis from that banned list.

Currently, cannabis is banned under commission rules in competition if more than 150 ng/ml is found in a fighter’s system. In competition is defined as the window starting from six hours before the fight and ending six hours after the fight.

Recreational marijuana was voted on and passed (with restrictions) in Nevada last year and the new law went into effect Jan. 1.

“I would much rather be prepared to deal with this than not,” Marnell said of what he believes will be a “potential conflict” with marijuana use now legal in the state.

Marnell, whose former company once applied for a medical marijuana license, said he expected the NAC to get heat for this discussion, but said it was par for the course. Marnell said he believes discussion whether or not marijuana should be a banned substance is the commission’s “fiduciary duty.”

“We are the gold standard here in Nevada,” Marnell said. “We are gonna lead the way.”

Commissioner J. Daniel Carpenter, an eye doctor, said he apposes marijuana as a physician, but does not believe it has any performance-enhancing effects for fighters.

A removal of cannabis from the banned list would have little affect on UFC fighters, since the drug is still prohibited in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, the list USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, has adopted.

Popular UFC fighter Nick Diaz was famously suspended five years by the NAC for a third marijuana offense in 2015. The ban was bumped down to 18 months in a settlement agreement.

The NAC also voted to form a similar open regulation project on the changes to the Unified Rules of MMA, which were passed by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) in August. Some states have already installed the changes, some have not and some will be voting on it in the early part of the year.

The MMA rules changes include a clarification of the scoring language, a new foul that hopes to prevent eye pokes, and an altered definition of a grounded fighter. Information on all the new rules can be found here.

Marnell said a vote on the Unified Rules changes will take place within 60 to 90 days. It’s unclear if a vote will happen before the UFC returns to Las Vegas for UFC 209 on March 4.

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