NFL free agent Mike James (not pictured) has broken new ground in the sport, becoming the first player to ask for permission to use cannabis to treat chronic pain.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the drug earlier this year, but was rejected in May.
“Submitting the TUE was a huge risk,” James told BBC Sport.
“I may have sacrificed my career to do it. But for me there was no running from it any more. I’m in a position to be able to do something myself, to give me back my life, and help the players in the league.
“I had three or four current players reach out to me immediately. 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.”
The running back, who broke his ankle in 2013 and spent most of 2017 sidelined due to concussion, revealed he used to take prescribed painkillers. When they weren’t strong enough, he took more and became addicted.
“At first I was taking the recommended dose but then I ramped it up when I found ways to get extra pills,” continued the 27-year-old, who tested positive for cannabis in pre-season last year.
“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.
“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.”
The NFL rejected James’ application on the grounds that he did not submit enough evidence that he was suffering from chronic pain.
However, James’ lawyer Brian Muraresku has not given up and is in ongoing talks with the NFL.
“…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,” said Muraresku.
“I’m very optimistic.”