‘Big’ John McCarthy Weighs in on Medical Marijuana

Article by MMA Weekly


“Big” John McCarthy is a pioneer in mixed martial arts.  He has refereed fights since 1994 beginning with UFC 2. He’s played an enormous role in rule implementation and regulation of the sport that helped bring it from a grassroots following into mainstream America.

McCarthy recently sat down with Vegas CANNABIS, a local Las Vegas publication, to talk about medical marijuana.  While McCarthy has never used marijuana, his wife uses medical cannabis to help treat her symptoms of lupus.  McCarthy spoke about the benefits of medical marijuana and how it impacts MMA.

“The understanding of concussions and their severity is one of the big hurdles facing all combat or contact sports. We must do everything we can to educate the fighters about taking care of themselves not only in the cage, but in training as well. We need to do more to keep the fighters from getting dehydrated and carrying that condition into competition. We need to learn from studies concerning alternative medications that are less harmful to the fighters overall health and ones that actually help regenerate cell activity instead of impede it. Thanks to researchers like Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University, we’ve discovered that cannabis may help prevent long term brain damage by administering THC before or shortly after the injury. In fact, Israel Defense Force (IDF) practitioners administer CBD or low-dose THC as a first-line of treatment to IDF soldiers. Is that something that could possibly help a fighter who has developed Traumatic Brain Injury or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy? I don’t know for sure, but why in the world would we not explore the possibility,” he said.

Cannabinoids are on the banned substance list for in-competition testing.  A fighter is not permitted to be under the influence of marijuana during a fight, but there’s no limit to how much THC an athlete can have in their system during out-of-competition testing, as it isn’t prohibited at that time.

“The UFC doesn’t test fighters. The UFC uses USADA as the organization that checks and tests fighters under contract to the UFC. USADA does have a 50 nanogram limit on THC during in-competition hours. Those hours are 12 hours each side of the fighters competition time. There is no limit on THC in what is called out of competition testing. If you test positive for 300 nanograms of THC during a test that is outside of in-competition testing, you will not be penalized by USADA,” he explained.

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