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Nevada commission approves new rules, will no longer punish fighters for marijuana

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Nick Diaz prepares to fight Carlos Condit at UFC 143. Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Nick Diaz prepares to fight Carlos Condit at UFC 143. Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fighters competing in Nevada will no longer face any punishment for testing positive for marijuana.

In a unanimous vote by the Nevada Athletic Commission on Wednesday, marijuana was removed from the list of performance-enhancing drugs banned for athletes, and they will no longer face any discipline for a positive test.

This change comes in the wake of similar rules adopted by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in regards to the UFC’s anti-doping policy. Much like those rules, Nevada retains the rights to remove a fighter from a bout if they are clearly impaired by the use of marijuana or alcohol. Otherwise, fighters competing in the state no longer have to worry about a positive test.

“We should be always at the forefront of these issues, and I believe it’s warranted and merited since it is legal in this state,” NAC chairman Stephen Cloobeck said during the meeting. “I think we need to jump forward being the leader as we’ve always been.”

For the next six months, fighters will still be tested for marijuana for data collection purposes, but no punishments will be handed down for any positive results. After six months, the commission will revisit whether or not to continue collecting the data.

UFC Senior VP of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky praised the Nevada commission for the decision after he championed removing marijuana from the UFC’s anti-doping policy as well.

“How about that! NSAC no longer sanctioning for marijuana,” Novitzky wrote on Twitter. “Crazy that in my tenure with UFC I’ve seen NSAC try to suspend Nick Diaz for life for marijuana, to this. Big credit to Exec Director Bob Bennett for spearheading this change. Just don’t show up to fight impaired!”

The rule change in Nevada will go into effect immediately as of July 7, but nothing will change retroactively for any fighters previously punished for marijuana use. In a strange twist, two UFC athletes on the commission’s agenda for past infractions involving marijuana were both fined and suspended.

UFC flyweight Gillian Robertson was suspended four and a half months, retroactive to her most recent fight on March 27, and was issued a $2,000 fine as well as prosecution fees. Based on the date of her last fight, Robertson will be eligible to compete again in mid-July, but she hasn’t actually booked her next bout yet.

Meanwhile, UFC light heavyweight Misha Cirkunov was suspended for six months after he tested positive for marijuana in connection with his previous fight on March 13. The commission voted to approve his suspension until Sept. 13, and he must pay a $4,000 fine along with prosecution fees.

Both fighters will have to pay fines and fees before the suspensions can be lifted.