WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — C.J. Harris was a sophomore in high school when he was diagnosed with epilepsy — after having his fourth seizure. He wouldn’t find a cure for his seizures until after his 14th seizure on January 10, 2017.
Harris, a senior at Warner Robins HS, tried a combination of pills and other medicines before being prescribed cannabis oil by his doctor. He started taking the oil on January 20, 2017, and has yet to experience another seizure since.
Now the medicine that’s keeping his epilepsy at bay is threatening his college football career.
After helping lead the Warner Robins Demons to a state championship appearance as a starting safety this past year, Harris received a preferred walk-on offer from Auburn University — his dream school.
“When I read the text that one of the coaches sent me, I just, I broke down,” Harris said. “Because this is my dream, and I saw everything lining up perfectly for me.”
The dream didn’t last long.
A few weeks ago, after Auburn coaches and staff took a second look at his medical records, they told Harris’ father Curtis that his son could not compete in NCAA athletics while he was taking cannabis oil.
Curtis said telling his son he couldn’t play college football was “the hardest thing I’ve done.” He compared it to the conversation his father had with him at the age of 6, when his father told him and his sister that their mother had passed away.
“You’re taking something away from a kid who’s worked so hard in his life to get there,” Curtis said. “And you’re just taking it away because he’s taking a medication that’s helping with his disability.”
Under NCAA guidelines, athletes are not permitted to have any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their systems. The cannabis oil Harris takes for his seizures contains less 0.3 percent THC according to the label. He won’t be able to pass an NCAA drug test while on the medicine.
Now, it seems like Harris has two options — find a new medicine or give up on his dreams of playing NCAA football.
He’s currently looking at some junior colleges and NAIA programs to play for next season. Harris also says he’ll check in with some new doctors in the coming months to see if there are any alternate medicines he could take that would allow him to pass a drug test and play at the highest level of college football.