News broke this week that Virginia Tech guard/forward Ty Outlaw had been charged with a cannabis crime after law enforcement served a search warrant on his residence in Virginia and found cannabis during the search. Virginia Tech is currently in the NCAA tournament and is scheduled to play top-seeded Duke today.

For most of this week, it was thought that Ty Outlaw would not be able to play in the game due to the cannabis charge. However, it was confirmed yesterday that Outlaw will be able to play in the game after having taken and passed a drug test.

Ty Outlaw’s status should have never been up in the air to begin with. Cannabis prohibition is a harmful policy that perpetuates institutional racism, whether it’s in sports or outside of sports, and Mr. Outlaw’s situation is an unfortunate example of that.

As details surrounding the cannabis charge emerged, things became progressively more ridiculous. For starters, Mr. Outlaw was not even present when the warrant was served in Virginia and was actually across the country in California with his team at the time.

Law enforcement served a search warrant at his residence in response to a ‘disturbance’ and after finding cannabis present, for some reason decided to charge Ty Outlaw with possessing the cannabis found. It’s a bizarre use of prosecutorial discretion, to say the least.

What was also bizarre was the ‘solution’ that Virginia Tech came up with in order to determine Outlaw’s eligibility for what can only be described as the most important game of Outlaw’s life. Virginia Tech made Outlaw take a drug test, and since he passed it, he is able to play. Outlaw still faces prosecution in Virginia.

It begs the question, what if Outlaw had not passed the drug test? Would he have been prevented from playing today? Ty Outlaw’s fate should not have been decided by whether or not he had THC metabolites in his system. It’s possible that someone can fail a drug test for THC from simply being around secondhand cannabis smoke.

If Mr. Outlaw had been prevented from playing today for having THC metabolites in his system his situation would have been an even bigger injustice than it already was. The fact of the matter is that Ty Outlaw is a victim of Virginia’s harmful cannabis prohibition law.

In Virginia, African-Americans are arrested at nearly 3 times the rate for cannabis as are Caucasians, despite usage rates being roughly the same. Even worse, that disparity is increasing. Cannabis prohibition in Virginia is a clear form of institutional racism, and the NCAA perpetuates that when it uses cannabis arrests to punish players.

As previously stated, Ty Outlaw gets to play today, which is good news for him and his team. He is an invaluable part of the Virginia Tech basketball program and the Uncle Cliffy crew wishes him the best. However, Outlaw is not in the clear yet. In addition to still facing prosecution in Virginia, he likely faces ongoing stigma.

As they too often do, members of sports media jumped to conclusions when news broke about Outlaw and they took a position that is on the wrong side of history. He was condemned and painted as ‘letting down his team’ by members of sports media who unfairly made him out to be some type of bum.

Ty Outlaw is 23 years old. He is of legal age to consume legal cannabis in 10 states and Washington D.C. He is also of legal age to consume legal cannabis in two countries (Canada and Uruguay). Yet his worth was diminished by sports media and his fate was decided by a drug test, despite the fact that he can be a legal consumer in those places.

“I have been personally charged with a cannabis offense for cannabis that was not mine in my past, and had to deal with the unfair stigma that resulted from it. It’s nothing that I would want to wish on anyone. Hopefully Mr. Outlaw overcomes the unfair legal issue that he is now facing and is able to move on with his life. He is a talented young man with a lot of life ahead of him, and he should be measured by his skills and moral character, and not whether he uses a plant that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol.” Clifford Robinson said.

What will it take for the NCAA, sports media, and the greater sports community to establish a consistently sane approach to the topic of cannabis rather than the current approach of embracing reefer madness? What happened to Ty Outlaw is shameful and it should never happen to anyone ever again.

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