Former NFL Stars Turn To Cannabis Businesses

By Kelly Burch 05/17/19
One NFL player said that cannabis use is already widespread in the league despite the fact that it is banned.
NFL stars

When former Detroit Lions stars Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims retired from the NFL they started a real estate business together, but once Michigan legalized recreational marijuana they decided to get into the legal pot game, especially after seeing the benefits of cannabis firsthand. 

“When I was on [Dancing With The Stars], I was using a CBD (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid) topical that my buddy gave me because my ankles were swelling up so much that I didn’t think I would be able to finish the show,” Johnson told Detroit Free Press during a conversation at the Toronto Cannabis Conference. “The relief happened almost overnight. I was already open-minded to marijuana, but after that, I became a true believer just because of the experience.”

Sims also found relief in cannabis when he stopped playing football, and believes that it can help other athletes who want to avoid taking prescription medication. 

He said, “When I was finished playing, the prescriptions from the docs stopped. It’s a slippery slope when you come out of the league and you’ve got all the Oxy and Vicodins or whatever you have to manage the pain. There has to be a substitution and cannabis ended up being that for me.”

Current and former NFL players have been critical of the league’s zero-tolerance policy on marijuana, especially as it hands out scores of pain pills to keep players on the field. 

Retirees are speaking up about the risk of addiction. Former players like Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe have become advocates for cannabis reform. 

Monroe wrote on his website, “It’s time for the NFL to change its archaic standards to better protect its players. For too long, I’ve watched my teammates and good friends battle with opioid addiction and leave the game with a long road still ahead; it’s time to make a change.” 

Willis Marshall, who played professional football in the Canadian and U.S. Arena leagues, said professional sports rely too much on dangerous pills. 

He said, “Even in the Canadian Football League, where they don’t test for marijuana, prescription drugs are a dime a dozen in the locker rooms. They hand them out like candy corn and that's an unfortunate thing.”

Marshall estimated that up to 80% of NFL suspensions are from players using cannabis. 

“If it's steroids, they'll say it’s steroids or performance enhancing drugs,” he said. “And it’s probably not alcohol or cocaine because that leaves your system a lot quicker than marijuana. And I can’t see any players using heroin or meth and being able to play or even practice on those. So it kind of narrows it down to marijuana.”

Last year on the Bleacher Report podcast, former New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennet said that cannabis use is already widespread in the league despite the fact that it is banned. 

“There are times of the year where your body just hurts so bad,” he said, estimating that 89% of players use pot. “You don’t want to be popping pills all the time. There are anti-inflammatory drugs you take so long that they start to eat at your liver, kidneys and things like that. A human made that. God made weed.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.