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Cannabis and Basketball: How Legal States May Impact NCAA Recruitment

By Danyal Swan March 8, 2024
Cannabis and Basketball

Cannabis usage spans a broad spectrum of demographics, including Generation Z, seniors, millennials, and workers across various industries. Yet, its association with athletes, particularly concerning NCAA basketball, has garnered significant attention due to a groundbreaking study in 2023.

Exploring the Connection: Legal Cannabis and NCAA Basketball Recruitment

Research conducted by Georgia College & State University and Kennesaw State University has uncovered a crucial relationship between marijuana legalization and college sports recruitment, showcasing varying effects on basketball and football. The findings, published in the Journal of Sports Economics, illustrate that basketball teams from states with legalized cannabis experience recruitment enhancements, advancing by 3.7 ranks on average. This effect is akin to the impact of acquiring a new coach. Conversely, football recruitment suffers in these states, witnessing a 2.9-slot decline.

The study attributes these differences to the contrasting stances of national leagues like the NBA and NFL toward cannabis, proposing that the NBA's lenient policies might boost basketball recruitment in legal states. Meanwhile, the stricter NFL approach possibly deters football recruits. Cultural acceptance in the basketball realm also seems to play a role, suggesting potential benefits for basketball programs amid growing legalization.

NCAA and NBA Positions on Cannabis Usage

The NCAA has progressively adopted a more cannabis-friendly approach. In 2022, it aligned its THC threshold with the World Anti-Doping Agency, softening the repercussions for positive tests. By 2023, it proposed eliminating cannabis from its banned substances list, indicating a significant policy shift.

Similarly, the NBA ceased random THC testing during the pandemic, a practice it continued to eschew, ultimately removing cannabis from its Prohibited Substances List in the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement. These changes reflect a broader acceptance of cannabis, potentially influencing NCAA basketball recruitment positively.

Welcoming Cannabis: A Trend Among Sports Organizations

Beyond the NBA, several sports entities have relaxed their cannabis policies. The UFC, Major League Baseball, the National Women's Soccer League, and the Premier Lacrosse League all showcase lenient or non-existent cannabis testing protocols. Even the National Hockey League, while testing for cannabis, refrains from imposing fines for positive results, opting for treatment plans in cases of excessive use.

As the NCAA contemplates joining these leagues in removing cannabis from its banned list, the landscape of sports and cannabis continues to evolve, highlighting an increased acceptance and recognition of the plant's benefits.

The Changing Cannabis Landscape

The landscape of cannabis legislation and policy is rapidly changing, reflecting a shift in societal attitudes and an acknowledgment of cannabis's benefits. As these transformations occur, staying informed about the latest developments is crucial for enthusiasts and stakeholders alike. For continuous updates on cannabis regulations and their impact on various sectors, including NCAA basketball, stay connected with our blog, and of course, shop your local Zen Leaf for all of your basketball season needs.


  1. Evans, B A, Clark, C, & Pitts, J D (2024). The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on NCAA Men’s Basketball Recruiting. Journal of Sports Economics, 25(2), 200-216. https://doi.org/10.1177/15270025231217975
  2. NBA (2023, June 28). NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement – key deal points. NBA.com. https://ak-static.cms.nba.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2023/06/2023-NBA-Collective-Bargaining-Agreement.pdf
  3. Reynolds, T (2021, October 7). NBA will not randomly test players for marijuana again this season. NBA.com. https://www.nba.com/news/nba-will-not-randomly-test-players-for-marijuana-again-this-season

Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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