By Nick Barene, Sports Writer

The NCAA announced this week that it no longer considers marijuana a performance-enhancing drug and has reduced the suspension for a positive marijuana test from a full season to a half season.

Instead of treating marijuana like steroids, the NCAA now groups pot in with street drugs like heroin. Perhaps this is still a harsh categorization, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Despite just one percent of college athletes testing positive for marijuana since 1999, it is well known that many collegiate and professional athletes, particularly football players, smoke marijuana to relieve the pain they experience as a result of the hits they take.

This decision by the NCAA may prompt the NFL to take a similar action. League Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t ruled out the possibility.

“I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine,” Goodell said during a press conference in January.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has spoken out in favor of allowing players to smoke marijuana as long as it is for medical purposes.

“Regardless of what other stigmas might be involved, we have to do this because the world of medicine is doing this,” Carroll said during a January press conference.

Two of the largest sporting administrations in the world have at least considered the possibility of allowing medical marijuana use amongst their players. But it is clear that more research and medical analysis will be required before players will be able to light up freely.

Perhaps the NCAA and the NFL can partner up to fund research in the field of medical marijuana. In short, it would be a joint effort.

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