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NFL denies player's exemption request for therapeutic use of marijuana

NFL running back Mike James said marijuana helped him stop his opioid addiction. Then he became the first player to file for a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis in the NFL. The league denied his request. (Image source: Video screenshot)

NFL running back Mike James' career may be over since he's chosen to use marijuana to treat his pain caused by a broken ankle in 2013.

James told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta during an interview for the network's "Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills" documentary that aired Sunday that he used pot to break his opioid addiction.

Last August, the 27-year-old James took a routine drug test for the NFL. It came back positive for marijuana, which led James to become the first player to file for a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis.

He received a letter on Thursday that the NFL denied his request, WTHI-TV reported. James, the  father of two young children,  is currently a free agent.

What happened to James?

James was raised by a single mom in Florida, while his dad was in and out of prison for drug-related offenses.

"Drugs tore up my family," James said during the interview. "So I wanted to just play football, go to school, stay in my books, not get into any trouble."

James, who attended the University of Miami, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. He proved that he had the talent to enjoy a "promising future" with the Buccaneers, but then he injured his ankle. His life changed.

He never dreamed drugs would ever be a problem for him until his recovery from an injury came with a prescription for opioids. In 2013, doctors prescribed a cocktail of pain medications for what his wife, Aubrey, called "excruciating" pain after his surgery to repair his broken ankle.

James said he still wasn't concerned.

"Why? Because I was getting it [the opioids] from a doctor. I'm not getting this off the street," Mike James told CNN. "It must be cool for me to take it."

It didn't take long for him to become addicted, and Aubrey James became worried.

"I didn't want to stop. I didn't feel the need to, and I didn't see the harm in it," Mike James said. At one point, he was taking nearly two dozen painkillers a day.

What about medical marijuana?

Aubrey suggested he try medical marijuana to get off opioids.

"I thought, 'Weed? No, that's a street drug.' I didn't even want to hear what it had to offer," Mike said.

In February 2014, he tried marijuana and got off of pain medications.

"I felt like I was beginning a new life," Mike James said.

One last thing…
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