NFL Mike James Requests Therapeutic Cannabis
NFL star Mike James, a 27-year-old running back from Florida believes he has made history by being the first NFL player to request a T.U.E (therapeutic use exemption) for his ongoing cannabis usage.
James, currently a free-agent following his release from the Detroit Lions in 2017, has suffered from chronic pain throughout his career, however his requests have fallen on deaf ears and have since been rejected by the NFL.
Back in 2013, the running back suffered a terrible broken ankle that prematurely ended his season. Since that devastating injury, James has suffered with both chronic pain and an increasing addiction to strong painkillers.
"At first I was taking the recommended dose but then I ramped it up when I found ways to get extra pills," he said. "I fell into the culture of being on the field by any means necessary. But I was beginning to harm my real life outside of football."
James is certainly not the first footballer to reveal his use of cannabis or CBD as an alternative to traditional painkilling methods but does appear to be the first NFL player to seek a TUE.
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NFL Players Hooked on Painkillers
A Washington University study conducted in 2011 revealed that 52% of retired NFL players had used painkillers during their careers while more than 70% of those players stated they had overused or had gotten addicted to these painkilling methods.
"Addiction is hard, and it shouldn't be taken lightly, but cannabis has given me an alternative."
An Alternative to Painkillers
Having suffered for years with chronic pain and his addiction to painkillers, James was encouraged by his wife to give cannabis a try. Afterall, it was legal for medicinal use in their home state of Florida.
With the painkillers proving to be so detrimental to his health and with no legal boundaries, James decided to replace them with medical cannabis while continuing to play in the NFL. He noticed an immediate difference following the switch.
"When I have to take breaks from cannabis, I can't medicate. I struggle with weight, spasms, sciatic pain, joint pain, headaches and I'm not able to train," James says.
2 Positive Tests
Going forward, James doesn’t want to continue his career unless he can actually use cannabis legitimately which brought about his TUE request.
As a consequence of his continued cannabis usage, James has now produced two separate positive drug tests for cannabis under the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse, in both 2017 and 2018.
Cannabis is still prohibited under the policy, which tests all players once during the year - in pre-season from 20 April to 9 August.
A positive result will see the player enter into the league's prevention programme, much like the NBA, while further positive tests will see penalties increase from fines to a suspension of as much as 10 games.
As a result, James was left with little alternative to reveal his cannabis usage. He stated “I felt pushed into a corner”. It was time to reveal the truth.
However, despite his candid revelation, the NFL decided to reject his TUE request which James’s lawyer Brian Muraresku believes is the first TUE application in an American sports league.
However, Muraresku told BBC Sport that he remains optimistic that a solution can be found.
"There was a disagreement over whether Mike had submitted enough evidence that he was suffering from chronic pain syndrome and symptoms related to traumatic brain injury,"
"But Mike and I have met with the NFL since and we're trying to come to a long-term solution in the collective bargaining agreement. I'm very optimistic."
No Change in NFL Stance
The NFL still refuses to comment on James’ TUE application nor indeed have they offered an update on their position on cannabis as a medical treatment within the NFL.
With the league not part of the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) code, the league is not bound by any of the statutes and regulations that govern much of sport across the globe today.
WADA has already granted TUEs for cannabinoids previously "where medically justified" and "where the relevant criteria have been satisfied" but despite the rest of the world beginning to take notice of the wonderful benefits of CBD and cannabis, the NFL continues to adopt a head in the sand approach that remains baffling to outsiders and participants alike.
Cannabis Use on the Rise in the NFL
It is James’ estimation that more than half of the players currently playing in the NFL today are using, or have used cannabis, while the reaction to his case from his fellow professionals has been largely positive.
"I had three or four current players reach out to me immediately," he said, "A lot of people I played with have told me to keep doing it, please keep doing what you're doing because we all need it."
Indeed. James and his fellow professionals are now beginning to affect a genuine sea-change in the NFL. With so many current or former stars revealing their life-changing experiences with cannabis and CBD in recent months, a spotlight is now beginning to shine brightly in the faces of the NFL’s rule makers.
Ultimately, this kind of shared understanding, experience and support is the bedrock for all of our ongoing desire to see CBD and cannabis fully legitimized and recognized as a valid alternative to the vastly overused opioids and painkillers that continue to plague the game we love.
Thankfully, we are now seeing a real change in our society with an increasing number of pro-cannabis/CBD stories emerging in our mainstream media. Indeed, this particular story was first reported by the Washington Post in May but somehow found its way to being the main headline on the UK’s BBC Sport app 1 month later.
It certainly appears that there is a growing acceptance amongst both our government and media that cannabis is no longer something to be feared. With stories such as these being brought to light by some of the world’s biggest media outlets, it appears that there is now a genuine willingness to educate the public on the benefits of cannabis and CBD.
We are now, finally, moving towards a time when cannabis and CBD will become fully accepted and integrated into our society. Even the staunchest of traditionally conservative critics are beginning to change their opinions thanks to the overwhelming body of testimony that we are now seeing in each and every day.
The journey is long, and not without its trials and tribulations, but with so many of you sharing your wonderful experiences online, we can be increasingly confident that our voices are now being heard. Finally, action is being taken. Cannabis is no longer a dirty word. Ostracism is on the decrease. Inclusion is on the increase.
Thanks to your continued support, we can all affect the changes we want to see in this world and in doing so, we will surely unlock all of the wonderful secrets of nature.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Endoca and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure. Endoca CBD products have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).