Cannabis In Sport

Cannabis in SportIt is important to remember that in the world of sport, there is no debate - cannabis is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s Prohibited List.

The Prohibited List is an international standard of the World Anti-Doping Code that is not affected by the changes in Canadian law that legalized recreational cannabis. Cannabis is just one of many substances that are legal in Canada, yet prohibited in sport.


Cannabis Considerations for Student Athletes
Medical Cannabis
Research on Cannabis in Sport

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Cannabis FAQ

What is the status of cannabis following legalization?

Cannabis continues to be listed as Prohibited In Competition on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s Prohibited List. This can be verified via the Global DRO

If it’s legal in Canada, why is it still prohibited in sport?

The CADP adheres to WADA’s Prohibited List, which is an international standard under the World Anti-Doping Code. Despite Canada’s position on cannabis, the global anti-doping community has maintained cannabis on the Prohibited List.

Why are cannabinoids prohibited?

All prohibited substances are added to the Prohibited List because they meet two of the three following criteria:

  • Use of the substance has the potential to enhance performance;
  • Use of the substance can cause harm to the health of the athlete; and
  • Use of the substance violates the spirit of sport.

While the CCES does not view cannabis as particularly performance-enhancing, we do have anecdotal accounts of athletes using it therapeutically with the intent to improve performance or recovery by managing pain, stress, or anxiety.

While cannabis has therapeutic uses, habitual use or abuse presents the potential for harm, especially for younger athletes. Impairment during competition presents a liability to the safety of the athlete and their competitors.

Finally, given that cannabis is prohibited in competition, we encourage athletes to demonstrate respect for their teammates, their opponents, and their sport by competing clean, clear, and sober.


What does cannabis’s status as a threshold substance mean?

The threshold means that if cannabinoids are detected in an athlete’s sample below a specific concentration, it will not be reported and a violation for presence will not be asserted.

This threshold is not meant to permit frequent, habitual, or in-competition use.

Despite the threshold, positive tests for cannabis are still frequent.

What does this mean for legal recreational use?

Like other prohibited recreational drugs, athletes should use discretion and judgement when deciding whether to use legal cannabis. Athletes will be held strictly liable for any prohibited substance that is found in their sample.

What does this mean for legal medical marijuana?

Athletes should always work with their physicians to explore non-prohibited alternatives to prohibited medications. Where no alternative is available or effective, or a physician determines that cannabis or a cannabis derivative is the most appropriate course of treatment, athletes should apply for a medical exemption. Refer to the Medical Exemption Wizard to determine your requirements.

Athletes should be aware that there is no guarantee that a medical exemption will be granted. 

What about CBD oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis. As of 2018, WADA no longer lists CBD as a prohibited substance. We would like to remind athletes that CBD oil often still contains some concentration of the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therefore, the use of CBD oil is at an athlete’s own risk.

How long does it take for THC to clear my system?

There is no simple answer for this. Different strains of cannabis have different concentrations of THC. This means that consuming the same amount of different strains can result in differing doses, and therefore different clearance times and different concentrations shown in a drug test.

THC is fat soluble, which means that it can be stored in the body for a long period of time and released slowly, although not consistently, depending on an individual’s metabolism.

Finally, frequency of use is another factor. Regular users will have longer clearance times than casual or infrequent users.

How can athletes minimize the risk of a doping violation?

As with all prohibited substances, athletes can avoid violations by abstaining from cannabis use during their athletic careers.

Aside from abstinence, there is no way to entirely avoid the possibility of a violation; however, athletes may be able to reduce their risk with the following actions:

  • Consider medical alternatives to medical marijuana;
  • If medical marijuana is a necessary therapy, apply for a medical exemption as necessary;
  • Ensure that non-medical consumption is not habitual or abusive;
  • Ensure that consumption is outside of a competition period; and
  • Ensure that consumption is a minimum of 30 days before the start of a competition period.

Individual clearance times and the concentration of THC may vary, so this approach to preventing an anti-doping rule violation is not a certainty.  

Remember, athletes are strictly liable for any prohibited substance found in their sample.

Can the CCES tell me the clearance time of my medical marijuana strain?

No. The CCES cannot provide clearance times for any prohibited substance, including marijuana or cannabis.

What documents are required for a medical exemption for cannabis?

Some of the items required in a medical file for medical marijuana include:

Always consult the Medical Exemption Wizard on the CCES website when applying for a medical exemption. This will tell you when to apply, who to apply to, and what kind of exemption to apply for.

Where can I find more health information about cannabis?

Additional information can be found on Health Canada’s Consumer Information page about cannabis.

I have other questions about cannabis in sport and/or medical exemptions.

For other inquiries related to cannabis’ status or other medical inquiries, please contact [email protected].

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Cannabis Considerations for Student-Athletes

Cannabis is on WADA’s Prohibited List and is prohibited in competition only. However, the World Anti-Doping Code allows us to analyze samples for less than the full menu of prohibited substances for certain athletes, who are neither international-level nor national-level athletes.

To this extent, the CCES has developed new protocols for student-athletes. The Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP) defines a student-athlete as an individual who is an athlete and student competing in U SPORTS and/or CCAA sport activities and who is not in the National Athlete Pool (NAP) for any sport. 

Under the new protocol, samples collected from student-athletes who only compete in U SPORTS or CCAA events, not be analyzed for cannabis (List category S8 Cannabinoids). Accordingly, these athletes will not receive an adverse analytical finding (AAF), or positive test – for cannabis.

Despite this change, we encourage student-athletes to be “cannabis smart” and to uphold a standard of respect and safety in competition. This means limiting habitual cannabis use, consulting a doctor if you are interested in cannabis for medical purposes, and avoiding cannabis use in competition at all times.

Take the following e-learning module to better understand how the new cannabis protocol applies to student-athletes in Canada.

Medical Cannabis

Using cannabis for medical purposes carries the same restrictions as any other prohibited medication. If you are subject to the CADP and have a prescription for medical marijuana products, you must apply for a medical exemption.

To learn more, consult the Medical Exemption Wizard.


For additional information about prohibition, medical exemptions, and other substance-related inquiries, email [email protected].


Medical Cannabis

Using cannabis for medical purposes carries the same restrictions as any other prohibited medication. If you are subject to the CADP and have a prescription for medical marijuana products, you must apply for a medical exemption.

To learn more, consult the Medical Exemption Wizard.

See Also...

Cannabis Considerations for Student Athletes

Student athletes in U SPORTS and the CCAA have new protocols for cannabis. Take the Cannabis Considerations for Student-Athletes e-learning module to learn more.