An Interesting Twist in the Medical Marijuana Debate
Nick Diaz is a mixed-martial arts fighter. He is arguably one of the top five fighters in the sport. When he isn’t training to fight he runs triathlons. His cardio is considered the best in the business and his trademark is to simply break the will of his opponents inside the cage with a pace they can’t match. He has held multiple championships and beaten some of the top fighters in the world.
Nick also smokes marijuana.
Diaz once famously said, “People say that marijuana is going to hurt my career. On the contrary, my fight career is getting in the way of my marijuana smoking.” One could argue this was an incorrect statement since Nick recently tested positive for marijuana in Nevada after a fight on February 4th. This is the second failed drug test for Diaz (the first was in 2007). He is likely facing a one-year suspension in the prime of his career and stands to lose millions in missed fight opportunities.
The Diaz saga raises some interesting questions with regards to medical marijuana and cross-state laws. Diaz has a license to use marijuana in California where he lives. He uses it for managing anxiety problems and because he believes it enhances his training. For the past five years he has managed to clean out his system prior to fights and pass all required tests. His social aversion issues are well-documented and he has been criticized in the past for avoiding interviews and for skipping press conferences. For his last fight the UFC sent a camera team to his training camp for three weeks to record footage they could use to hype the fight. Diaz’s manager said that this added pressure caused him to smoke marijuana closer to the fight than normal.
No one disagrees about the danger of fighters going into the cage high. The debate lies in the assessment by many that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug when used during training. Because of the unique properties of the sativa strain, medical marijuana actually allows fighters to focus more. In a sport where fighters have to be skilled in multiple fighting disciplines, this seems a valuable tool for those that use it. Diaz certainly believes this which is why he is such a vocal user.For the same reason Adderall is also a banned substance despite the fact that is can be legally prescribed across the country.
The legal issue as of today is clear: Whatever the laws in California, Nevada views marijuana as a banned substance and if you want to fight in Las Vegas, you have to test clean. For this reason Diaz will probably get the maximum suspension. What questions the issue raises revolve around whether or not other states should honor marijuana as a medicinal drug in testing. No one is advocating that citizens should be able to walk or drive around non-medical marijuana states high (that would imply recent marijuana use in that state) but to penalize someone for legal marijuana use in another state seems to be an overreach. It’s an interesting question and hopefully one that will gain some public attention due to Diaz’s popularity as a fighter and the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s position as the most powerful organization of its kind in the country.