5 Former NFL Players Who Have Gotten Into The Cannabis Game

Katie Shapiro
Written by Katie Shapiro
NFL players
Eugene Monroe at the ribbon cutting opening of GTI’s Rise dispensary in Deerfield Beach — the first of 30 dispensaries Green Thumb Industries has slated to open in Florida.COURTESY: GTI

National Football League, are you listening? Since the onslaught of the medical and recreational marijuana industries, retired and current professionals have come out of the cannabis closet in droves, advocating for the accepted use for athletes, entering the space as investors and launching brands of their own.

In a 2016 survey of 226 of the NFL’s nearly 3,000 players on active rosters or practice squads, ESPN found that 61 percent believed that players would take fewer injections of strong anti-inflammatory drugs such as Toradol if they could treat pain legally with marijuana. In another study, ESPN reported that 71% of 644 NFL players surveyed misused opioids.

just-reported ban on an Acreage Holdings advertisement during Super Bowl LIII is an indicator that there’s still a substantial stigma surrounding the medicinal use of marijuana that stretches beyond stadiums, which is only going to make players in support of its consumption ready to rumble even more.

The NFL Players Association has made inroads with league-supported research on the use of marijuana as an alternative to painkillers and a government patent suggests that CBD can help in treating neurological trauma like CTE.

Thanks to an increasing number of retired and current players speaking out about the NFL’s reefer madness mentality 2019 could be the year professional football could make real progress. Here are five former NFL stars who are leading the charge in taking this controversial conversation closer to the end zone:

NFL Players
Tiki Barber. GETTY IMAGES

Tiki Barber

Co-founder, Grove Group Management

After spending 10 years as a running back with the New York Giants, Barber retired in 2007 and soon landed as a news anchor on NBC’s “Today” and co-founded a sports marketing firm and influencer marketing software solution. In 2018, he co-founded Vancouver-based investment firm Grove Group Management, which will focus on North American cannabis start-ups. As for his impetus for getting into the cannabis game? Helping the many athletes suffering from traumatic head injuries. Barber told CNN Business in an interview, “The more quickly we can get cannabis legalized federally, the better off athletes will be. [It’s a] matter of inevitability.” While still mum on what kinds of businesses Grove Group Management is looking at in 2019, Barber added, “Cannabis stocks look a little overvalued right now. It’s easier to be on the private side of this.”

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NFL Players
Eugene MonroeCOURTESY: BRIAN BOMSTER-JABS, @OMSTER-JABS @BOMSTERJABS_STUDIO, INSTAGRAM

Eugene Monroe

Diversity Consultant, Green Thumb Industries

As the first-ever active NFL player to publicly share he consumes marijuana in 2016 — an act that caused the Baltimore Ravens to terminate his contract — Monroe’s voice has only gotten louder. He penned a trio of columns for The Cannabist about his mission to “get the NFL to accept cannabinoids as a viable option for pain management” and serves on the Board of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation and HealthyUNow and is a supporter of the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Athletes for Care. Monroe cites overly-present and overly-prescribed opioids as the main factor in speaking out and in a “Newsweek” interview said, “Those are powerful drugs. Many people who take them get addicted. There’s no secret: It’s one of the deepest issues in our country right now.” Monroe joined Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries (GTI) in 2016, where he consults on engaging diverse communities and research initiatives for the medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary company.

NFL Players
Joe Montana. USATSI

Joe Montana

Investor, Caliva

The legendary quarterback, who had a Hall of Farm-worthy, 15-year career with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, first entered the industry in 2017 with a $4.1 million investment in Herb, a marijuana-focused news and entertainment media outlet. His venture capital firm’s latest move is a $75 million investment in the vertically integrated cannabis company Caliva. Based in San Jose, Calif., Caliva produces top-shelf cannabis flower and oil, manufactures ancillary products, operates a flagship dispensary and sells on-shelf at dispensaries throughout the state. “As an investor and supporter, it is my opinion that Caliva’s strong management team will successfully develop and bring to market quality health and wellness products that can provide relief to many people and can make a serious impact on opioid use or addiction,” Montana said in a press release.

NFL Players
Marvin Washington. GAGE SKIDMORE

Marvin Washington

VP of Business Development, Isodiol International Inc.

A longtime advocate for the medical use of marijuana and cannabis entrepreneur, Marvin Washington, whose career spanned 11 years with the the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, is the vice president of business development for global CBD leader Isodiol International, Inc. and brand ambassador for ISO-Sport. He was most recently appointed to the company’s board of directors and also serves on the board of Athletes for Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to health and safety for athletes, which encourages the use of cannabis as medicine. Washington has been instrumental in sparking early discussions with the NFL Players Association for changes in the sport’s drug policies and also participated in a 2017 lawsuit filing against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which sought to overturn the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.

NFL Players
Ricky Williams. COURTESY – REAL WELLNESS

Ricky Williams

Founder, Real Wellness

Forced to retire in 2004 after testing positive for marijuana, only to return and fail yet another drug test in 2005, Ricky Williams said goodbye to the game for good in 2011. Now a trained herbalist and healer, Williams launched Real Wellness in 2018, personally developing products in four formulas: Serenity, Optimize, Maintenance, Repair and Ricky’s Choice. The line can be found in Southern California dispensaries includes RW smokes, vape cartridges, salves and tonics with its CBD-only products also available online. A dedicated student of ancient Indian medicine, yoga, massage, pranic healing, craniosacral therapy, Chinese medicine and astrology, Williams shared with Bloomberg, “The whole purpose of this for me is to help facilitate my public persona transitioning from being a former football player to being a healer,” he said. “It’s been difficult for people to appreciate who I am as a healer because of the success I had as a football player.”

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

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About Katie Shapiro

I cover the intersection of cannabis and luxury.
I am an Aspen-based freelance journalist, known as 'the nation’s first-ever marijuana style writer' when I started at The Cannabist in 2014. Since then, I’ve written about the ever-evolving legal world of weed culture in The Aspen Times, Curbed, The Denver Post, High Times, Leafly, Merry Jane and Thrillist. My industry insight and work has been profiled in the Adweek, The Business of Fashion, Bust, Complex, Cosmopolitan, Racked Refinery29 and more. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder and also produced the documentary 'Rolling Papers,' which premiered at SXSW in 2015 and is on-demand.