Two days ago, the NCAA announced its plans to re-examine its drug testing policies for student athletes. There are two main recommendations made by the NCAA Competitive Safeguards Committee. First, the drug testing procedures would be strengthened for performance enhancing drugs like steroids. Secondly, they plan to find alternatives to testing for non-performance enhancing drugs such as cannabis. This news could represent the start of a long awaited step in the right direction for the often criticized drug testing policies of the NCAA.

By eliminating or restricting testing policies for drugs that “do not give a competitive advantage,” the NCAA stands to keep more players from enduring meaningless suspensions that oftentimes impact their ability to play professionally and increase their likelihood of dropping out before graduating. Many high-profile student athletes are suspended by the NCAA every year for recreational or medical cannabis use.

“Given that testing over nearly 30 years hasn’t served as an adequate deterrent, plus the fact that student-athletes who are penalized for recreational drug use by losing eligibility are more likely to drop out of school, the committee suggested the NCAA explore whether a different approach for recreational drugs is warranted,” the NCAA release stated.

The statement indicates that the NCAA Sport Science Institute staff will begin developing a new policy proposal based on these new recommendations and will bring the proposal to a divisional board of governing bodies in the months to come.

In a recent statement regarding the NCAA policy change, Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann said, “Punishing athletes for marijuana use has nothing to do with fairness or safety in competitive sports and everything to do with inappropriate extensions of the drug war into American life. It’s great to see the NCAA join with other sports associations in revising this hypocritical and harmful policy.”