Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley discussed the changing issue of marijuana in the NCAA at his opening spring practice press conference on Monday.
When asked about if he anticipated the NCAA enacting looser marijuana rules similar to the MLB and NHL, Riley said he sees it in the future, but is unclear as to when it would happen.
Marijuana is now legal medically in 33 states, including Oklahoma, but Riley said players with medical cards are not exempt from marijuana tests.
"My deal is the welfare of the student athlete and what best helps that. I think as far as marijuana testing, we're operating in a different world than it was 10 or 15 years ago," Riley said. "With laws, availability, the perception of it, everything's changed. I think we have to continue to adapt to that."
Riley compared dealing with a player who uses marijuana to dealing with a player who struggles with alcohol abuse. A player abusing alcohol wouldn't be partaking in illegal activity if they were over 21 years old, but it could impede their life in ways on and off the field, which Riley said he would want to prevent.
"Let's say we had a player that has an issue with abusing alcohol. It's not necessarily illegal from an NCAA standard, but we would sit down and talk to this player. We would get him counseling, and we'd approach it more from a wellness (standpoint) and being healthy for the rest of your life and helping you perform athletically, academically, all those things."
Marijuana is strictly policed by the NCAA — any athlete who tests positive in an NCAA-administered drug test will be suspended for 50 percent of a season.
Riley said the penalty and potential ongoing consequences of failing a marijuana test make it harder to help a player who is struggling with its use.
"I don't know that we've all been able to do that with marijuana specifically because of the ramifications of a guy testing positive," Riley said. "You're talking about things that could be devastating to these guys: their careers, their scholarships. When something like that happens in this day and age, word tends to leak, and it can destroy reputations. It's made it an elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.
"I don't know that I have all the answers, but it's ever-evolving."