NFL players using marijuana is not a new thing. It isn’t unique for any athlete in general. Athletes have been using marijuana since what feels like the dawn of time. But, just like it was back then, pot is still put under the same category of drugs like cocaine and steroids. Yet the athletes continue to fight for its pain-relieving effects, citing that it has no real impact on performance. NFL running back Mike James has taken the fight a step further, becoming the first player in NFL history to apply for a medical use exemption for marijuana.
In 2013, while filling in for the injured Doug Martin, James was running for a touchdown when a player on the other team fell on his foot causing him to fracture his ankle. Following the ankle injury, he was prescribed opioid painkillers to help manage the pain. He then developed a dependency on the pills in a short period of time, he told CNN. Fortunately, through some convincing from his wife, he found cannabis to be a safer alternative. Safer for his health, absolutely, but for his career, that remained to be seen.
Though a majority of states in the U.S. have some sort of legalization of marijuana, it still remains prohibited by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Under their Policy of Substance Abuse, there is only one way for the use of marijuana to be allowed; through a therapeutic use exemption stating that the athlete requires the substance to treat a diagnosed medical problem.
In March 2018, Mike James became the first NFL player in history to apply for that exemption. As many had expected, his application was denied. Even after his denial, James plans to continue to use cannabis as long as necessary. Telling CNN,”I’m not ashamed of it, I’m not embarrassed about it. It is something that I will continue to use because I have a life to live.”
Other than genuinely not caring about whether or not players do become addicted to opiates, as reported in this Deadspin article, the NFL and its team owners have other plans when it comes to the handling of marijuana. Pro Football Talk said last year that the owners don’t really care about the players’ use of marijuana, but are holding out on allowing it so that they will get something from the players in return.
Giving players opiates like M&Ms but not allowing marijuana use unless they can get something out of it is a pretty terrible way to treat your players. With more people
like Mike James in the future, legal marijuana use for athletes could see its day reasonably soon.