Marijuana Potentially No Longer Deviant in Sport?

Canada has recently become one of the first Countries in the world to legalize marijuana (effective October 18th, 2018). This legislation has sparked nationwide discussions and debates about the potential implications of a former illicit drug being legalized. This discussion has now begun in the sporting world. In terms of professional and elite sports, marijuana remains on the WADA banned substance list, therefore is not of the highest concern. Recreational sport is where the debate is.

Link to Jill Barker’s article: How will the legalization of cannabis affect Canada’s athletes? It’s hard to say

There are two opposing perspectives, one being the legalization will allow coaches to have more candid conversations about marijuana use and abuse with their athletes, the other being concerned with overall health and well-being of athletes. Regardless, there is growing excitement around potential research around marijuana, pain, and potential athletic enhancement. Jill Barker is quoted as saying:

“Those conversations, combined with more targeted research on how marijuana use impacts athletes, could lead to more evidence-based information so that athletes of all ages and abilities can make informed choices about how cannabis affects their training and performance.”

This acknowledges the potential for research and while not disregarding the concerns surrounding the use of cannabis.


Marijuana legalization plays with the subjectivity of social deviance. As marijuana is still a banned substance according to WADA, the use of cannabis is considered deviant behaviour. However, outside of sport as it is now going to be legal in Canada as a society it may not be considered deviant behaviour to use marijuana in regard to legality. Is it still deviant to use cannabis in sport if social perspectives are changing? Sport does not exist outside of society, they are intertwined, as Waddington et al. emphasizes in their paper Recreational drug use and sport: Time for a WADA rethink?:

“It is important to recognize how public attitudes and anxieties towards the use of controlled drugs in society generally have ‘spilled over’ into the sports arena and have influenced – and continue to influence – anti-doping policies in sport.”

Regarding policy marijuana use in sport is deviant behavior, however as Waddington et. al. describe that society changes normalities and that includes normalities in sports. The fewer social anxieties towards marijuana the further it strays from deviance in regards to social acceptance in sport.

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