Cannabis and college sports in the US is interesting with changes over the last few years. As rules loosen, cannabis related loosening follows suit.
In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston , a 2021 case, the US Supreme Court held that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) restrictions on student-athlete compensation and benefits enjoyed monopoly power in the market for student-athlete services. The Court held that students could receive greater educational benefits to cover books, scholarships, and internships previously disallowed under NCAA rules. This attenuated NCAA control over student athlete compensation.
A follow-up 2023 case is seeking retroactive Alston-related educational payments for college athletes dating back to 2018. The case seeks triple damages for current and former Division I college athletes who suffered from former NCAA rules found unlawful under the Alston decision. Attorneys contend that at the very least 5,000 athletes may be due two years of back Alston payments. That number might climb to more than 20,000 athletes. Estimated damages are calculated to be at a maximum as much as $1 billion. The trial could begin in 2024. These are labor and antitrust matters.
Cannabis legalization challenges college athletics. Texas recently gave preliminary approval for a bill that decriminalizes marijuana possession. Athletes seek pain relief and possess cannabis and test positive for it as well.
The NCAA has been part of the discussion of college athletics and marijuana’s banned substance question for some time. In 2022, it increased the THC threshold athletes can test positive for. It also reduced penalties for athletes who test positive. After all it has not been proven to be performance enhancing.
California recently introduced a bill that would reshape how athletes share revenue with the college. The College Athlete Protection Act, calls upon large college teams to create a fund that would pay players a share of their teams’ revenue. The impetus of the bill is to allow athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Also, in compliance with Title IX there is the ability to redistribute funds so male and female athletes are treated equally.