Image of cannabis leaves

It 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 FAQ

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Research on Cannabis in Sport 

Ware, M.A., Jensen, D., Barrette, A., Vernec, A., & Derman, W. (2018). Cannabis and the Health and Performance of the Elite Athlete. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 28(5), 480-484.

Kennedy, MC. (2017). Cannabis: Exercise performance and sport: A systematic review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20, 825-829.

Huestis, M. A., Mazzoni, I., & Rabin, O. (2011). Cannabis in sport: anti-doping perspective. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 41(11), 949–966.


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


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