There is no question that the debate over the use of marijuana is an evolving recreational, and now medical, complicated mess. However, the NFL has and continues to maintain, a steadfast policy: if you use it and test positive, you are suspended.
So, what about the therapeutic benefits in limiting pain? And should they matter for a player, who has physician backing, that says the drug would help him with his pain and thereby, continue his NFL career.
That player is former Bucs and Miami Hurricanes running back, Mike James.
James has had a largely undistinguished NFL career. He’s played in 23 career games in three seasons over the course of the last five years. He’s got 83 career carries for 351 yards in parts in those three different years with the Bucs. He’s shown above scoring in the 2015 preseason for Tampa Bay.
The last of his regular seasons was, when after being cut at the start of the year, he was re-signed late in the 2016 season by the Bucs. And, he carried the ball just four times in the four games he played.
After being waived by the Buccaneers, yet again, James was signed by the Lions. He was in their 2017 training camp and played in the preseason, where he suffered a concussion. James went on injured reserve and has not yet re-signed with another team.
And that’s, where the marijuana use comes into the equation.
In a story Tuesday afternoon in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, writer Rick Maese detailed James’ bid to get a Therapeutic-Use Exemption or a “TUE” from the NFL to allow him with a physicians guidance to take the drug in moderation to minimize his pain. .
Alas, as Maese lays out the latest:
The league denied his request last week, which James said jeopardizes his ability to sign with a team and continue his career.
“By them denying me a TUE, they’re really giving me no other options to continue playing football,” the 27-year old James said in an interview this week. “To be able to play this violent game and deal with my chronic pain, I need an option for that.”
Maese, goes on to detail James’ injury plight which began with a gruesome broken leg injury suffered on a goal line hand-off on Monday Night Football against the Dolphins in November of 2013, his rookie year.
James telling the Sun-Sentinel he was prescribed opioid painkillers to help with the pain,
“The routine I had was, my wife would give me some pills and I would try to sneak and get extra, get more,” said James, who first detailed his story in a CNN documentary that aired Sunday. “When those ran out, I’d try to search as much as I could to get more — mostly asking around, trying to get it as fast as possible from people that I knew that had it.”
It should be noted that the NFL, after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency got involved, has put in much more stringent accounting policies on pain killers and pills given to players in recent years.
Back to James, he is using the help of an organization called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, which has former Dolphins star Ricky Williams as one of it’s board members. Williams was suspended multiple times by the NFL for repeated marijuana use. He has now made it a goal to get the NFL to come around and allow players to use the drug recreationally, and more importantly, medically.
The organization, in coordination with James’ doctor, and the notifying of the NFLPA attempted to get the TUE exemption with James. Again, that was denied.
The NFL didn’t return comment to the Sun-Sentinel. However, as they point out in the story, the league doesn’t comment on drug cases/appeal statuses, etc.
It should be noted that more and more states where there are NFL franchises like Florida, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for at least medical, if not recreational use.
However, the NFL has made it clear that, just because the state has made it legal, it’s illegal, for any reason, to use in the NFL. And they will test, catch and suspend you for doing so.
Once more, back to James, as he tells the paper that he does use the drug currently, with the physcian’s guidance and prescription and that it’s helping. Further, that he can’t specifically discuss an appeal but, “we’re in talks with the league to try to resolve this.”
Perhaps, there will be a day when marijuana does get the NFL’s blessing, as a therapeutic drug.
For now, that day is not for Mike James. And if he wants to continue, his career, he’s got to stop using it and find other ways to cope with his pain.
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