A new drug testing policy at Rutgers, implemented last August, relaxes penalties student-athletes receive if they are found to have used marijuana. The new policy creates a distinction between penalties for marijuana and other drugs, including hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin, or performance enhancing drugs.

New Jersey Advance Media obtained the new Rutgers Athletics Alcohol and Drug Education and Testing Program document through an open records request. The policy outlines a stepped disciplinary stage framework that increases and intensifies penalties for repeat offenses.

According to NJ.com, each phase of the new enforcement protocol calls for education and mandatory drug-test monitoring, but also includes additional sanctions. They are:

  • For a first violation, a suspension lasting for a period between “0 and 10 percent” of a season for PEDs or hard drugs, but no suspension for marijuana.
  • For a second violation, a suspension lasting for a period between 10 and 25 percent of the season for PEDs or hard drugs, and 0 to 10 percent of a season for marijuana.
  • For a third violation, a suspension lasting between 30 and 100 percent of one season for PEDs or hard drugs, and 10 to 25 percent of one season for marijuana.
  • For a fourth violation, dismissal from the team for PEDs or hard drugs, and 30 to 100 percent of one season for marijuana.
  • Finally, a fifth marijuana violation will result in dismissal from the team.

While the NCAA does not require member schools to adopt a drug-testing policy, schools that do are subject to NCAA guidelines. Last month, the NCAA sent Rutgers a Notice of Allegations alleging that the athletics program violated those guidelines by not sanctioning 30 football players who failed their first drug test. The NOA claims that 16 players were allowed to play without disciplinary action over a four-year period.

Both the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference have random drug-testing policies for participants in championship events; however, the Big Ten does not test for marijuana.

The new Rutgers policy allows for head coaches to institute their own drug enforcement rules, so it’s possible that student-athletes could be subject to stricter marijuana rules that their head coach lays out.

“It balances our concerns for our student-athletes’ well-being with our desire to provide rehabilitation where necessary, and sanction when appropriate, including expulsion from the team, ultimately,” Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs told NJ.com. “In the end I think it’s a fair policy, and I think it’s one that’s consistent with the other FBS schools.”

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Jason Scott is Online Managing Editor of Athletic Business.