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Novitzky told MMA Fighting  that cannabis use could be considered “performance-enhancing” if the fighter shows obvious signs of impairment. 

“We’re making the leap that if you’re under the influence, there is some performance-enhancing benefit there,” Novizky said. “The scenarios that I could think of would be a fighter shows up fight night in the locker room, they have bloodshot eyes, they smell like marijuana, they’re slurring or a far-off gaze. There’s evidence that they recently used marijuana, I think would qualify as the performance-enhancing factor because they’re actively impaired at a fight,” he said.

And though the revised rules are a step in the right direction, fighters will still be subjected to tests from local athletic commissions and could face punishment for positive results. 

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, for example, has not hesitated to suspend, fine and overturn wins for fighters who have tested positive for cannabis, despite the plant being legal within the state. 

“That’s where the issue continues to remain, the athletic commissions,” Novitzky said in October. “By sanctioning on marijuana, I really think we are pushing these athletes to drugs that are even more dangerous.”

The hope is that the athletic commissions will be open to reforming their rules and follow in the footsteps of the USADA and UFC.

Novitzky told MMA Fighting that those discussions are already underway. “We’ve started already with athletic commissions. Sharing this science with them,” he said, adding that he had already spoken with the executive director of California’s athletic commission, Andy Foster. 

“They are already one of the most progressive commissions on how they handle marijuana,” Novitzky said. “I think they fine like US$100 for a positive marijuana test. They don’t sanction. They don’t overturn victories. So he was really interested and I think enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”