2022 has provided an opportunity for athletes and individuals around the world to lead a movement and normalize the Sports Cannabis Conversation. Retired NFL Icon, Super Bowl Champion and entrepreneur, Marvin Washington is pushing the conversation forward, using his platform to advocate for cannabis and athletes around the globe.
Marvin Washington is a former defensive end, who played eleven seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers and is a Super Bowl Champion.
Today, Marvin Washington continues to make an impact on and off the field, shifting the cannabis conversation as well as creating a host of educational initiatives for athletes of any background.
Jay Morzaria of Sports Cannabis connected with Marvin Washington to take a deep dive into cannabis, reflect on his career and chat about his movement.
Jay Morzaria :
Most people grew up following your football career, whether it was at New York, Denver or San Francisco. What was it about football that ultimately made you push to make a career out of it?
Marvin Washington :
“I think that sometimes in life, and in the creator’s providence it’s kind of destined as to what you do. I was 6’6, 250 coming out of college, and with my degree, I didn’t have IBM or anybody else knocking on my door. With my size, I played football and it’s everybody’s dream to play at the ultimate level… I had one good year of football and that gave me the opportunity to pursue it on the next level… and I did. I feel very humble and very blessed to be able to play 11 years as well as win the Super Bowl. Now, being able to use that platform, being an ex professional athlete, I’ve tried to help people and it’s been a wonderful experience… I’m blessed to be where I’m at now, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
With football, we’ve heard other athletes say, “you play injured, it’s just what you do…”. Did you ever use cannabis to help with recovery and relief and if not what was the prescribed modality?
“The saying is “you can play injured but you can’t play hurt…” And if you’re taking football, which is not a contact sport, but a collision sport of guys running into each other at 25 to 35 miles an hour, you’re going to get hurt… So the best ability that you have is availability. They want you to be available for practices and games over a 16 or 17 week season, and you’re going to get banged up. The thing with the NFL and even college football is that they introduce pain management with their medicine which is, the opioids, benzodiazepines and anti inflammatories. The first thing prescribed at a lower level are the anti-inflammatories. Then you’re going to step it up a little bit with some pain blockers and prescription pain pills. Then if you’re having anxiety, trouble sleeping or anything you’re going through, there’s benzodiazepines. These are the things that I want to get away from, I want there to be a natural alternative, because when I played, we called it “the Dark Ages”, and when we do look back at it, we will realize it was the dark ages because we didn’t have any natural alternatives… I’m not trying to kill football, I’m trying to make it safer, and I want the former players, there’s 20,000 former players, I want them to have a quality of life, because former players are four times more likely to abuse opioids in general society. Take my career; that regiment of pain pills, the Western medicine, would start in the July training camp. The season ends in January and if you’re lucky, February. Now extrapolate that over 11 years, constantly taking pills, and immediately after you retire, you’re supposed to cut it off when you leave the game. Well, we’re seeing that guys can’t do that.
I want to introduce something that’s non toxic, non addictive, and we’ve been advocating this way for 1000’s of years. We’ve gotten away from the natural plant and its effects. I’m working to provide the same education under a doctor’s training and supervision, so that they can give an athlete a certain amount of milligrams whether it’s CBD or THC. Then take it home for that night, use it and they’ll see it will provide the same relief as a Naproxen, Tylenol, threes, Percocet or whatever they are using. Then you come back and practice the next day. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for opioids, because if you break your leg, sustain an acute injury, then it’s understandable. But, we’re not supposed to be taking these over 30-45 day periods, because it becomes hard for guys to wene of that cycle. Let’s provide athletes a natural alternative so that they’ll have longer careers, a better quality of life after their career is over, and their availability be there. And, if they’re there, that’s a better product for the team, and for the owners. Most importantly, if you have all your players available, you have a better chance of winning games.”
What was your ah-ha moment? When did you ultimately decide that you were going to start to partner in CBD,cannabis for recovery and relief as a medical option for yourself?
“It was once I got involved in the community. At first, I didn’t know anything about CBD, THC or anything until 2013’14. Around that time period I was approached by a company to become a brand ambassador, which provided me an opportunity to educate myself and take a deep dive into cannabis and the science behind it. There’s over 10,000 Peer Reviewed papers written about medicinal cannabis, CBD and THC. Once I found out what it can do for the body and what it can do as a neuro protector, and learning about how it can help with chronic traumatic encephalopathy CTE, I dove all in, and that became my aha moment. The minute I started doing a deep dive into the plant, I had to share it with my former community, and all contact sports.
My aha moment was once I learned about that patent 6630507 that the NIH holds that says CBD is a neuroprotective antioxidant for the brain, in relation to concussions… That’s when it became like ah, they know about this, and let’s try to do this.”
How can we collectively normalize the cannabis conversation?
“The biggest thing is, at times, we get caught up in the community, and we’re preaching to the choir, because we can go to the expos, we can go to conferences, but we’re talking to only our community. If we ever want to normalize this and get this into the mainstream, we have to start talking about it in a responsible way. One of the things that I try to tell the cannabis community, is that you can’t be on your social media, your IG or Twitter account, doing a big bong or dab hit and talking about waking and baking, that’s negative, and does an injustice to talking about cannabis medicine responsibly. It’s the facts and education that helps. An ability to talk to people about this plant and back it up with science… And when they want more information, we give it to them. It starts with talking to your friends and family, because there’s a small percentage of a country that knows about THC and CBD. I believe there’s 25% of the country that actually understands cannabis. That means at best 75% or 300 million people do not have the slightest idea. We have an opportunity to speak with them, educate our communities about the mental and health benefits of this plant. If we stick to the facts and do it responsibly, we can collectively normalize the cannabis conversation.”
Talk to us about your movement and what we can expect from 2022?
“I always say that I’m a three legged stool, my movement involves athletes, because that’s my former community, it involves people of the lower majority, which are African Americans in this country, and the third part to my movement is being an entrepreneur and pushing cannabis forward. I always say that Oregon and Colorado went off in 2012, which was ten years ago, which to me was similar to the Ford releasing the Model T. We’re about to get to the next phase, and as an entrepreneur, I want to push cannabis forward. I want to bring this to communities of color that have been punished by the prohibition of cannabis. I want to show them how they can gentrify their own communities with economics and I want to show them how they can get healthy with this plan. A key focus is to reduce an athlete’s dependence on opioids, benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals and the target is the entire sporting community, from hockey, to baseball, basketball, rugby, and in particular football. I want to be able to show the athletic community there is a natural alternative.
Those are the three things that I’m pushing and would like to see major sporting leagues adopt new policies to provide for Cannabis/CBD. It’s no longer a matter of “if”, it’s now a matter of “when”, because it’s going to happen.”
Any final words for the Sports Cannabis community and athletes around the world?
“Number one; educate yourself, make sure you know everything about the medicinal benefits of the plant. If you have a personal story, share how it has helped you. Number two; be around. There are great expos and conferences that are available and they are also online, make sure to attend these and immerse yourself in the community. You never know which opportunity may unfold. Number three; If you are an adult user, be a responsible user with the medicine, as no one is using Cannabis to just get high, but to feel better. Cannabis is Medicine”