Former Super Bowl champion and Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon says an unfairly demonized drug helped him recover from the pain of his football career: medical marijuana. The key to getting off the prescription narcotic painkillers he took throughout his career, he said, was medical marijuana. McMahon got his medical marijuana card in Arizona, where he lives after it was approved by a voter referendum in 2010.

“This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain – or thinking about it, anyway.” On a typical day, McMahon will smoke marijuana in the morning to help him get up, a little in the afternoon depending on how he feels, and before bed, saying he couldn’t sleep without it.

The former “Punky QB” said he initially tried to get into the medical marijuana business, but it didn’t work out. Though his interview was arranged through a representative from Cresco Labs, which grows and sells medical marijuana in Illinois, McMahon said he has no financial ties to the industry, but went public to help other people who are suffering.

His comments come as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner considers whether to approve eight more medical conditions to add to the list of about 40 that qualify for medical marijuana here. The majority of patients in some other states that have legalized medical marijuana, like California and Colorado, qualify to use it to treat pain.

Which has perhaps the strictest law allowing medical marijuana in the nation, does not allow it for pain, as lawmakers have expressed concerns that the category is too broad and vague and would allow for abuse. Despite McMahon’s endorsement, marijuana is not recommended for medicinal use by the American Medical Association, among others. Some critics worry that marijuana may merely replace one drug with another, or be used in combination.

While prescription painkillers have caused what authorities call an “Epidemic” – deaths linked to the drugs quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, with more than 22,000 deaths that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – it is considered virtually impossible to reach fatally toxic levels of marijuana alone.

Many doctors oppose smoking any drug, because of the damage it causes the lungs, though marijuana also can be eaten, vaporized or taken as an oil or lotion. After reviewing conflicting studies, the Institute of Medicine concluded in 1999 that marijuana’s components can provide mild to moderate relief from pain, comparable to codeine. The National Academy of Sciences reported that cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana, have shown significant but not conclusive promise for pain relief, particularly in cancer patients.

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