Just ask longtime UFC referee, Josh Rosenthal, who agreed to a plea deal with the U.S District Attorney’s office in January of this year, after federal agents discovered 1,356 marijuana plants growing in a warehouse owned by he and an associate.
Facing charges of growing an estimated six million dollars’ worth of illegal weed, Rosenthal’s next scheduled court appearance is at the U.S. District Court, on May 17th to face sentencing. He had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2012, but struck his plea deal earlier this year, admitting his guilt. Rosenthal was facing 10 years in federal prison and a ten million dollar fine, but now he is expected to see that sentence reduced to around 3 years of jail time, stiff fines, and a 5 year probation that will subject him to random searches.
Rosenthal rarely made headlines, as his decisions in the octagon met with little scrutiny from fighters or fans. UFC fans may remember Rosenthal’s work in the UFC Heavyweight title fight between Shane Carwin and defending champ, Brock Lesner in UFC 116. In the 1st round, Carwin had Lesnar reeling and was landing some vicious blows to the downed champ. Rosenthal, to his credit, allowed Lesnar to work his way out of the situation without stopping the fight, leading to a 2nd round submission victory for Lesnar.
UFC referee Josh Rosenthal
Known for his trademark grin when beginning each round, who knew that his easy going, soft-spoken vibe may have been induced by some heavyweight homegrown ganja?
This was not the first headline involving marijuana and the UFC. In March of this year, the UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Marc Ratner, went before the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Steroid and Drug Testing Advisory Panel to try to convince them that marijuana needs to be treated differently than other banned substances in professional fighting – namely PED’s, or performance enhancing drugs.
Ratner, a former NSAC board member himself, told the panel, “Society is changing. It’s a different world now than when I was on the commission. States are legalizing marijuana, and it’s becoming more and more of a problem with fighters testing positive (for marijuana) and the metabolites.”
Fighters who have been busted for blazing the bud range from up-and-coming crowd pleasers like Alex Caceras, to grizzled veteran title contenders like Nick Diaz, who has been nailed twice with pot showing up in his system in post-fight drug tests. When asked if a 3rd failed test after his latest bout in UFC 158 would lead to Diaz’ permanent expulsion from the UFC, president Dana White answered with a resounding…”probably”.
Diaz, a self-admitted daily toker, has already had one victory changed to a “No Contest”, after THC metabolites were found in a routine post-fight drug screening, and served a full one year suspension after his 2nd offense. But when asked the same “3 strikes” question as White, Diaz expressed no concern, saying, “I’m sorry if I don’t pass the test, but I think it should work out.” Never one to duck controversy, he added, “I’ve passed plenty of them before, unless they just weren’t testing me. I wonder how much they test people around here.”
That’s a question that Dana White and the UFC would rather duck, but White – who says he doesn’t touch weed – was recently quoted in an interview with 5thround.com as saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if 8 out of every 10 professional fighters were found to be smoking chronic.
“Everybody thinks that if you did this random testing you’d catch so many guys on PEDs. No, you’d catch more of the guys on marijuana. That’s where you’d really bust a lot of guys. So [we’ve got] 475 guys under contract and 400 of them would be out with marijuana [suspensions],” White claimed.
White prefers to keep these matters, and the punishments, “in-house”, but Josh Rosenthal’s case was too big to sweep under the mat. A rising star in the sport, Rosenthal’s quick decline might be a black eye on the UFC, but it’s hardly their first and they are sure to keep fighting.
Check out UFC host, Joe Rogan’s NSFW take on weed