Texas’ MMA Drug Testing Policy Is Reefer Madness

Texas is home to some of the harshest cannabis laws in the country. Possession of 4 grams of concentrated cannabis is a felony in Texas, punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine. To put that into perspective, an adult over 21 years of age in Oregon can possess up to one ounce (28 grams) of concentrates with no penalty at all. Oregon voters legalized cannabis in 2014.

The Lone Star State’s tough approach to cannabis can also be found in testing requirements for mixed martial arts fighters (MMA). The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) official anti-doping partner is the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which has a THC metabolite threshold of 150 ng/mL. Most states have adopted a similar threshold, but not the State of Texas. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) has a threshold of only 15 ng/mL.

This is significant for MMA fighters who fight in Texas, and are therefore held to the lower TDLR standard. Curtis Blaydes and two other MMA fighters found out about that the hard way when they were recently fined $1,000 for testing positive for cannabis via a TDLR drug test. Mr. Blaydes and another fighter also had their wins overturned after competing and winning at UFC Fight Night 104, which did not sit well with Curtis Blaydes for obvious reasons.

“I made a mistake, but in my eyes, I feel like USADA is the only commission I should have to honor, and that’s the one I did honor. I didn’t fail their test. I feel like that’s the only thing that should count, but it is what it is. I did fail the Texas commission test, so I will take whatever the punishment is, even though I don’t agree with the punishment. But that’s what it is, they’re going to take away the win. I still know I won the fight. There’s video. Everyone else knows I won the fight. It’s not controversial, like the Kevin Lee and Chiesa fight. It’s nothing like that, so I’m over it.” Blaydes said according to MMA Fighting.

“It’s an old rule. It’s archaic. It’s just not very smart. I live in Denver, so things are different in Denver, and things are different here now (in Las Vegas). I just found out that they legalized marijuana here, I didn’t even know that. I just found out, so everyone else, it feels like they’re more forward thinking, they’re changing and evolving their rules, and I feel like Texas isn’t. They’re probably the last ones to get with it.” Blaydes went on to say in the article.

A 15 ng/mL threshold for THC metabolites is ridiculous, which is why the USADA has a threshold that is 10 times greater than that. It is feasible that a person could test positive for cannabis at that low of a threshold without even consuming it. One study found that someone could fail a drug test at a rate of three times greater than the Texas threshold for simply being around other people that are consuming cannabis.

The National Football League (NFL) had a threshold of 15 ng/mL in years past, but has since raised the threshold to 35 ng/mL, which is still too low. Ultimately athletes should not be tested for cannabis at all, regardless of what state they are competing in. The National Hockey League (NHL) has removed cannabis from its list of banned substances, and it has not been negatively impacted in any way as a result.

Professional athletes can legally consume cannabis for recreational purposes in eight states and Washington D.C., with more states virtually guaranteed to follow suit by the end of the decade. The Department of Licensing and Regulation is so far behind the times it is unreal. It is beyond time that the State of Texas, both inside and outside of the sports world, ended prohibition for responsible adults and got on the right side of history.