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In letter, USADA says it can’t change marijuana rules alone

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency letter addressed criticisms leveled by members of Congress after sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s ban from the Olympics over marijuana.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency leaders are pushing to further mitigate “harsh consequences” for marijuana if it’s not intentionally used to enhance performance, though they cannot unilaterally change the rules, they wrote in a letter to members of Congress critical of the agency in the wake of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s ban from the Olympics.

The letter, sent Friday, addressed criticisms leveled by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, in their own letter, sent last week, after Richardson’s suspension was announced.

The 21-year-old sprinter will not compete at the Tokyo Games after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana after her victory in the 100-meter finals at the Olympic trials last month.

Officially, she received a 30-day ban, but the positive test nullified her first-place finish at the trials, which cost her a spot in the individual race. And earlier this week, USA Track and Field left her completely off the Olympic roster, meaning she can’t run in the 4×100 relay, which takes place after the 30-day ban is over.

Friday’s letter, co-signed by USADA CEO Travis Tygart, referenced a rule in Ultimate Fighting Championship that does not penalize marijuana use if it is not meant to enhance performance. But while USADA oversees UFC’s anti-doping program, that league is not signed onto the international anti-doping code, the way USADA, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and all organizations that oversee Olympic athletes are.

“Most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons,” the USADA letter read. “It is worth noting that when marijuana was included in the first prohibited list in 2004, one of the strongest advocates for inclusion of marijuana on the prohibited list was the U.S. government.”

It said that because Richardson voluntarily accepted her 30-day sanction, any attempt to reverse it, as Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin suggested should happen, “would have been quickly appealed” by the IOC or World Anti-Doping Agency and might have resulted in an even longer suspension.

In last Friday’s letter to Tygart and WADA president Witold Banka, Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin wrote “the ban on marijuana is a significant and unnecessary burden on athletes’ civil liberties.” It said the rule was even more antiquated because of more permissive attitudes about the drug, which “is currently legal in 19 states” and “legal in some form in at least 35 countries around the world.”

But USADA countered back that “most governments in the world have been very reluctant to take marijuana off the prohibited list for public health reasons.”

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Author: EDDIE PELLS (AP National Writer)
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Is marijuana a performance-enhancing drug? The best evidence says no.

One of America’s top sprinters, Sha’Carri Richardson, won the women’s 100-meter event at the U.S. track and field trials in June. She was set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo this month, but tested positive for marijuana following her race. The positive result invalidates her win and brings with it a one-month suspension levied by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. 

Richardson told NBC that she had used marijuana, which is legal in Oregon where the trials took place, as a way to cope with the surprise death of her biological mother, which occurred while she was at the Olympic trials. According to NBC, she found out about her mother’s death during an interview with a reporter. 

Marijuana, though legal in 18 states in the U.S., is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. However, unlike other substances on the list like anabolic steroids, marijuana is banned only on race day (which starts at 11:59 p.m. the day before competition until midnight on race day). Athletes are allowed to use it outside of competition. Further, suspensions for testing positive for marijuana are less harsh and lengthy than testing positive for other drugs like steroids. The maximum length of suspension is two years but the minimum, if an athlete can show cannabis’ use was unrelated to the sport, is one month, which is what Richardson received.    

A drug must meet two of three specific criteria to make WADA’s list of prohibited substances. If a substance  enhances performance, creates a health risk, or goes against the “spirit” of the sport, then it’s in violation. But does cannabis really meet those criteria? 

WADA heavily cites a 2011 study published in Sports Medicine as its evidence that the drug enhances performance and creates a health risk. The study notes that because marijiuana can impair decision making and skills, that it can pose a health risk to the athlete. “Athletes who smoke cannabis or Spice in-competition potentially endanger themselves and others because of increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making,” the study, authored by The National Institutes of Health (NIH), states. 

[Related: The science behind sex, gender, and athletic competition is still pretty shaky]

As to whether it enhances performance, the 2011 study acknowledges that “much additional research is needed to determine the effects of cannabis on athletic performance,” but notes that “cannabis induces euphoria, improves self-confidence, induces relaxation and steadiness, and relieves the stress of competition.” The study also acknowledges that cannabis decreases coordination. Outside that 2011 study cited by WADA, the research on marijuana’s ability to enhance performance is insubstantial at best. 

Most notably, a literature review published in April of this year in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, concluded that consumption of weed “does not act as a sport performance enhancing agent as raised by popular beliefs.” And that “cannabis consumption prior to exercise should be avoided in order to maximize performance in sports.” If anything, there isn’t enough robust evidence from large, reputable studies to suggest that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug.

Outside of the Olympics, other sports organizations’ rules on marijuana use have become more relaxed in the last few years. As The New York Times notes, Major League Baseball removed marijuana from its banned substances list in 2019; the NBA suspended its use of random testing for marijuana in 2020; the NFL changed its penalty for a positive marijuana result to a fine rather than a suspension; and in January of 2021, the UFC that testing positive for cannabis would no longer be considered a violation of the organization’s Anti-Doping Policy.  

It’s unlikely that Richardson, whose time of 10.86 seconds in the 100-meter run made her a favorite for winning the Gold in Tokyo, will be able to compete in this year’s Olympic games. But it’s clear the scientific reasoning behind marijuana’s supposed performance-enhancing effect should be looked at more closely.

Claire Maldarelli

Claire Maldarelliis the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.

Author: Claire Maldarelli
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US track star Sha’Carri Richardson will miss Olympic 100 after marijuana test

TOKYO — American champion Sha’Carri Richardson cannot run in the Olympic 100-meter race after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana.

Richardson, who won the 100 at Olympic trials in 10.86 seconds on June 19, told of her ban Friday on the “Today Show.” She tested positive at the Olympic trials and so her result is erased. Fourth-place finisher Jenna Prandini is expected to get Richardson’s spot in the 100.

Richardson accepted a 30-day suspension that ends July 27, which would be in time to run in the women’s relays. USA Track and Field has not disclosed plans for the relay.

The 21-year-old sprinter was expected to face Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in one of the most highly anticipated races of the Olympic track meet.

On Thursday, as reports swirled about her possible marijuana use, Richardson put out a tweet that said, simply: “I am human.” On Friday, she went on TV and said she smoked marijuana as a way of coping with her mother’s recent death.

“I was definitely triggered and blinded by emotions, blinded by badness, and hurting, and hiding hurt,” she said on “Today.” “I know I can’t hide myself, so in some type of way, I was trying to hide my pain.”

Richardson had what could have been a three-month sanction reduced to one month because she participated in a counseling program.

After the London Olympics, international regulators relaxed the threshold for what constitutes a positive test for marijuana from 15 nanograms per milliliter to 150 ng/m. They explained the new threshold was an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.

Though there have been wide-ranging debates about whether marijuana should be considered a performance-enhancing drug, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency makes clear on its website that “all synthetic and naturally occurring cannabinoids are prohibited in-competition, except for cannabidiol (CBD),” a byproduct that is being explored for possible medical benefits.

While not weighing in on her prospects for the relays, USATF put out a statement that said her “situation is incredibly unfortunate and devastating for everyone involved.” The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it was “working with USATF to determine the appropriate next steps.”

Richardson said if she’s allowed to run in the relay “I’m grateful, but if not, I’m just going to focus on myself.”

Her case is the latest in a number of doping-related embarrassments for U.S. track team. Among those banned for the Olympics are the reigning world champion at 100 meters, Christian Coleman, who is serving a suspension for missing tests, and the American record holder at 1,500 and 5,000 meters, Shelby Houlihan, who tested positive for a performance enhancer she blamed on tainted meat in a burrito.

Now, Richardson is out as well, denying the Olympics of a much-hyped race and an electric personality. She ran at the trials with flowing orange hair and long fingernails.

“To put on a face and go out in front of the world and hide my pain, who am I to tell you how to cope when you’re dealing with pain and struggles you’ve never had to experience before?” Richardson said.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author: AP
This post originally appeared on ABC13

Joints for Jabs: States Offer Marijuana Giveaways for COVID Shots

In an effort to boost COVID-19 vaccination numbers, several locations across the country are allowing adults to claim a free marijuana joint when they receive a shot, according to The New York Times .

On Monday, Washington’s State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced a “Joint for Jabs” promotion, which starts now and runs through July 12.

State-licensed marijuana retailers can provide customers who are 21 years old or older with a pre-rolled joint when they receive a first or second COVID-19 shot at an in-store vaccine clinic. The promotion applies only to joints, not other products such as edibles.

“The LCB received multiple requests from cannabis retail licensees to engage in promotions to support state vaccination efforts,” the board wrote in a statement.

“The LCB has provided dozens of allowances for alcohol and cannabis licensees throughout the COVID pandemic in an effort to support businesses during the restriction period and to support the vaccine effort,” the statement said.

President Joe Biden has set a goal for 70% of the adult population to receive at least one shot by July 4. About 63.7% of the US adult population has received at least one shot, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Monday.

As the rate of vaccination has slowed in the US since mid-April, states and companies have launched incentive programs to encourage people to get a shot, including lotteries with millions of dollars in cash prizes, full-ride college scholarships, vacation packages, custom hunting rifles and shotguns, custom cars, and free beer.

Last week, the Mint Cannabis Dispensary in Arizona partnered with a medical group to offer free on-site vaccines at its three locations, according to The Arizona Republic .

As part of the “Snax for Vaxx” event, those who got a shot and were 21 years old or older could receive a free pre-rolled joint and an edible cannabis gummy. In March, the dispensary offered a free edible to customers who presented a COVID-19 vaccination card, and the positive response led to the on-site vaccine clinic.

“We had a lot of people coming in and asking us, ‘I don’t have [the vaccine], where do I get it?'” Raul Molina, chief operating officer of the Mint, told the newspaper. “And that’s what led to this.”

Cannabis groups across the country have held various incentive programs this spring to encourage COVID-19 vaccines, according to Forbes . The DC Marijuana Justice group announced its “Joints for Jabs” campaign in early January and has since distributed more than 10,000 free joints at multiple events, the news outlet reported.

After hearing about the initiative, the New York Marijuana Justice group partnered with the DC group to plan giveaway events for April 20, as well as the NYC Cannabis Parade in early May. The groups continue to hold events when they have enough supply. Regulations prevent them from handing out joints from licensed businesses, so they’ve relied on donations from home growers.

“If we had more joints, we could do this every day with volunteers,” Adam Eidinger, co-founder of the DC group, told Forbes. “But we just don’t have the weed.”

Greenhouse of Walled Lake, a dispensary in Michigan, has also handed out free pre-rolled joints as part of its “Pot for Shots” program for customers who show a COVID-19 vaccination card. The promotion was extended throughout the spring due to an “overwhelmingly positive response.”

“We’re all hoping that the COVID vaccine is the beginning of the end for this pandemic that has taken such a toll on our neighbors, our communities and our nation,” according to the dispensary’s website. “If you choose to get the COVID vaccine (we always support the freedom of choice), this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for helping to end this pandemic and getting us back to normal.”

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Author:
This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

Medical marijuana expansion bill gets initial approval from Texas House

Author: Wes Rapaport
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Medical marijuana expansion bill

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — More Texans would qualify for medicinal marijuana under an expansion of the state’s Compassionate Use program, which passed the Texas House.

House Bill 1535 grows the state’s medical marijuana program to include all Texans with cancer. People with chronic pain and debilitating medical conditions would also qualify. HB 1535 was amended Wednesday to include all forms of diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rather than for veterans with PTSD as it was initially introduced.

“We need to include [survivors] in that sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than any other event,” State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, said Wednesday.

The legislation also raises the limit for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)— the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana— from 0.5% to 5% by weight.

The bill must be read a third time on the House floor for final passage. If it clears the House, it heads to the Senate for approval.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety records, there were 4,919 patients in the system.