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Marijuana remains off limits to college athletes even in states where the drug is now legal

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Even though voters in Colorado and Washington approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana use, college athletes in those states probably should refrain from lighting up a joint anytime soon.

Marijuana use remains a violation of the NCAA's substance abuse policies, according to an NCAA statement released to Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday afternoon.

"The legalizing of marijuana in Colorado and Washington does not impact the NCAA drug testing rules," the statement said. "The NCAA banned drug and testing policies are not tied to whether a substance is legal for general population use, but rather whether the substance is considered a threat to student-athlete health and safety or the integrity of the game."

The NCAA's stance is similar to the ones taken earlier Wednesday by the nation's major professional sports leagues. Spokesmen from the NFL and NBA told USA Today that marijuana remains prohibited under their respective anti-drug rules for all players regardless of the state laws.

It's no surprise to see the NCAA follow suit since it has banned other legal supplements and pharmaceutical drugs in the past. Using "Muscle Milk," for example, is prohibited under NCAA rules because it contains a banned muscle-building substance.

Yahoo! Sports contacted four Division I colleges in Washington and Colorado on Wednesday to ask how their respective athletic department policies would be impacted by the legalization of recreational marijuana in their state.

A spokesman from the University of Denver said the school will continue to adhere to NCAA rules that do not allow student-athletes to use marijuana. The University of Colorado has no plans yet to alter its policy prohibiting marijuana use, but it will study how the new law will be implemented between now and January and consider tweaking or rewriting its rules for both regular students and student-athletes.

Colorado spokesman Bronson Hilliard said Wednesday that the NCAA's anti-marijuana stance will definitely be "a factor" in the athletic department's policy going forward.

"There's multiple layers of policy layers to work out, and intercollegiate athletics is just one subset," Hilliard said. "The rule of thumb right now is any student-athlete enrolled here or thinking of coming here should not get it in their head that all rules are off when it comes to marijuana. Right now, the new law doesn't change the reality very much."

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