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Updated Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 08:16 PM

What does marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington mean for college athletes?

By Percy Allen
Seattle Times staff reporter

College athletes in Washington and Colorado may want to refrain from the use of marijuana even after both states became the first in the nation to legalize recreational use of the drug.

Marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law, is still a banned substance by the NCAA, which makes it off-limits for players.

"The legalizing of marijuana in Colorado and Washington does not impact the NCAA drug-testing rules," the NCAA said in a statement released last week. "The NCAA banned-drug and testing policies are not tied to whether a substance is legal for general population use, but rather whether the substance is considered a threat to student-athlete health and safety or the integrity of the game."

Several over-the-counter items such as Muscle Milk, Sudafed, Midol, Airborne and some flavors of Vitamin Water are banned by the NCAA.

"It's the same reason why tobacco isn't allowed," Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said. "There's a prohibition of tobacco by the NCAA. We have strict standards for that as well."

Professional football and basketball players in the two states aren't free to use the drug, either. In separate statements to USA Today, spokesmen from the NFL and NBA said marijuana remains a prohibited substance in their leagues' collectively bargained anti-drug policies.

Those policies are at odds with the sentiment of voters in Washington and Colorado, who approved constitutional amendments last week legalizing recreational marijuana.

In Washington, Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of the drug for people 21 and over. It also creates rules for heavily taxed and regulated sale at state-licensed marijuana stores.

Colorado's Amendment 64 allows individuals over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home.

The Pac-12 has no jurisdiction over its conference schools regarding drug testing, and it falls upon each school to police itself in accordance to NCAA policies.

Still, Washington's new marijuana law could have an impact on the number of incidents that are reported.

Take, for instance, the Washington State men's basketball team, which has a recent history of players running afoul of the state's old drug laws.

Reggie Moore was cited early in 2011 for marijuana possession on campus and served a one-game suspension.

Klay Thompson was suspended from one game in March 2011 following his arrest and citation for marijuana possession.

DeAngelo Casto also received a misdemeanor marijuana citation in March 2011. He was initially suspended, but it was lifted by the school.

In the latest incident, sophomore Brett Kingma was arrested last month for possession of marijuana. He's been suspended indefinitely and coach Ken Bone was unsure if he would return to the team.

"In many ways this goes beyond being a student-athletes issue and it's an issue for each school and its students," said Pac-12 spokesman Eric Hardenberg.

Before last Tuesday's election, WSU spokesman Darin Watkins told the Murrow News Service the school would maintain its current policies.

"We can't do anything that would threaten federal funding," he said, referencing to a 1989 federal law that bans marijuana on college campuses. Schools that allow the banned substances can lose federal funding.

Woodward said Washington's new state law on marijuana will not have an impact on how UW will test and enforce its drug policies.

"Not one bit," he said. "We're obviously governed by the NCAA. We have our own rules. We will continue to maintain them, and I don't foresee any changes."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com


DEAN HARE / AP
WSU guard Klay Thompson wipes away tears before a March 2011 game after apologizing to the crowd for his pot-possession arrest.




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