NFL Denies Mike James’ Request to Use Pot Instead of Opioids for Pain Management

AP Mike Carlson
AP Photo/Mike Carlson

Free agent running back Mike James, recently asked the NFL for the right to use marijuana for his pain. His request was rejected by the NFL.

In 2013, while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James suffered a broken ankle. His wife, Aubrey James, told CNN the pain was so severe, her husband considered having his foot cut off.

To help deal with the excruciating pain, team doctors prescribed him opioids, and James says he ended up getting addicted.

James wife suggested he try marijuana for the pain instead, but he didn’t want to go there since his father had drug problems.

“I didn’t want to believe the benefits,” James told “But at that point, I was in so much pain and going through a lot mentally with the demands in the game, I tried it. It gave me instant relief.”

So since he feels it worked for him, he wants other players to be able use marijuana for pain management instead of opioids, but the NFL’s not going there. Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much to ESPN Radio last year:

Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term.

We’ve been studying that through our advisers. This is a change we think you should make that is in the best interest of the health and safety of our players? If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long term. All of those things have to be considered.

And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance, but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is going to be something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.’s Steve Politi, who interviewed James, blasted the NFL for allowing opioids and not marijuana.

“The NFL would rather that Mike James consume powerful opioids to manage his chronic pain, risking addiction, overdose and even death, than use the drug that actually works the best for him. Marijuana,” wrote Politi.

“Instead, the answer was just the latest short-sighted decision from a league that hasn’t found a way to protect its players from the lifetime of suffering that follows a career in the sport. The NFL apparently is blind to the opioid crisis that has taken hold in this country.

“More than 64,000 people died from opioid-related causes in 2016 — numbers that continue to rise in an alarming fashion — but the top professional league still refuses to embrace a safer alternative to help players like James deal with the ravages to their bodies.”

James wants to keep playing, but if not, he’s more than happy to focus his attention on getting the NFL to change their position on pot.

“I am hopeful that I’ll be able to keep playing football,” James told “It is a game that I love very dearly. I know right now I’m doing something that makes some people uncomfortable, and that I’m going against the establishment to push for a change in the way they look at this medicine. I know there’s a greater purpose here for a lot of guys in this league who I consider family members.”


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