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Epileptic high school athlete banned from NCAA football due to need for cannabis oil

Zej Moczydlowski
May 28, 2018 6:15:35 PM

C.J. Harris, a high school senior from Georgia, was committed to play for the Auburn University football team next year. However, due to NCAA regulations, he has been told that he would not be eligible while taking the cannabis oil which prevents him from having seizures...

NCAA drug testing standards do not allow for athletes to have any THC, one of the two primary cannabinoids found in cannabis, in their systems. There are no exceptions for players like C.J. Harris, who must take cannabis oil to prevent seizures. The oil Harris takes contains less than 0.3% of THC but that's still over the limit for the NCAA testing. He has been using it since January 2017 and has not had a seizure since. Prior to using the oil, he was having two or three seizures a month.

As noted in the CNN piece below, outrage over the situation has been widespread. Sports fans, advocates, and lawmakers have criticized the decision. Phil Gattone, the president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, said, "We urge the NCAA to review their existing guidelines on THC and explore possible exceptions to allow players under medical treatment, like C.J., the ability to fulfill their dreams of playing college football. We hope the NCAA would reconsider their decision and assess C.J. on his character and talent as a football player."

Jerry Kill, a former Big Ten Coach of the Year, also came out against the decision. He battled a seizure disorder in the past. He told CNN, "If it's not safe for him to play, that is one thing. But if it's because he's using CBD oil and they won't let him play, that's another. A kid should not be punished for his seizures being brought under control. It's not fair to the kid."

This case is a stark example of how archaic attitudes about cannabis have real and unfortunate consequences for those who rely on it for medicinal reasons. The NCAA’s zero tolerance policy on THC is effectively telling a promising young athlete that his abilities and his lifetime of training are less important than the fact that he has medical condition which needs to be treated with a specific substance. Hopefully the organization will realize that their policy is outdated and will reconsider their position on cannabis.

Link to the CNN piece on Harris

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