The Advocate

Player’s cannabis exemption request denied by NFL

By Efrain Valdez, Social Media Editor

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Last month, Mike James became the first player in National Football League (NFL) history to make an official administrative request for exemption from the league’s cannabis ban for medical use.

James’ audacious plea is one of the first notable drug exemption requests in any professional league and will be hailed as one of the trailblazing moments for medical cannabis in sports.

Lamentably, his request was denied Thursday.

And his courageous decision may ultimately cost James his career.

It will be no surprise if he is ostracized by the NFL just like Colin Kaepernick. It would continue to show the regressive policies of the league and its owners.

Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant, both players in the NFL, have been on the receiving end of season-long suspensions for cannabis use (and other substances).

The NFL will allow players like Gordon and Bryant, two players who have extensively broken the league’s drug policies, to be reinstated while blackballing players like James just because he does not carry the status of some of the league’s premier talents.

These illogical and inconsistent drug suspensions are the problem with professional sports and the NFL will always take the baton to lead by example.

For decades, professional sports teams have employed their own doctors to perform medical evaluations on their multi-million dollar employees. Since these doctors also work for the teams, they will do anything to keep their jobs.

If doctors plan on keeping their positions as a professional sports team physician, in some cases they must fast track injured players to the field.

In the Journal of Contemporary Health and Law (Volume 14, Issue 2) it says, “Since these physicians have no duty to enter this contractual relationship, the doctor-patient relationship is deemed consensual.”

James experienced this kind of contractual injustice while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. The running back fractured his foot during a Monday Night Football game.

The injury forced the end of his season that year and nearly led him into a downward spiral of opioid dependency.

James swiftly turned to cannabis after he and his wife noticed his increasing dependency on opioid painkillers.

The NFL’s denial of James’ drug exemption request ostensibly translates into the league asking him to pick between pot or pills.

This atrocity should be a criminal offense, but the NFL’s estimated $14 billion revenue and bevy of well-paid lawyers probably have a different opinion.

The NFL and other professional sporting leagues are damaging the physical and mental health of these athletes just for corporate gain because the athletes are bound by NFL rules.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 52 percent of former players used opioids during their careers and 71 percent of players in that group (of 644) reported misusing opioids.

Even though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has flirted with the idea of studying the medical benefits of cannabis for a few years now, it has been all bark and no bite.

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Player’s cannabis exemption request denied by NFL