Medical Marijuana and the NFL: Ricky Williams

While the NFL has experienced unparalleled success of late, it faces one issue that could bring the good times to a grinding halt: Player safety.

The neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – the result of repeated traumatic brain injury on the field – has been discovered in an alarming number of deceased NFL players. Additionally, pharmaceutical addiction plagues the league as players battling injuries often rely on painkillers to get through games.

Incredibly, there is a natural, non-toxic medicine valued for its neuro-protective potential, healing properties and ability to reduce pain. Unfortunately, the league is not interested.

Many former players have called on the NFL to embrace cannabis as an alternative to dangerous and addictive painkillers. Some believe that it is the key to solving the league’s concussion problem. To date these pleas have fallen on deaf ears as the league continues to ban cannabis in all forms.

While the NFL chooses to embrace prohibition to its determent, a number of former players have found that marijuana greatly improved their lives – both during and after their professional careers. HIGH TIMES editor-in-chief Dan Skye spoke to several retired players for our Pot and the NFL feature in the November 2016 issue of HT. We’ll share a new player testimonial on the benefits of cannabis here each Sunday.

We’re kicking off our series of player testimonials with one of the first NFL stars to publicly support cannabis as an important aspect of wellness, Ricky Williams.

–Mike Gianakos, managing editor

Ricky Williams (running back) played from 1999 to 2011 for the New Orleans Saints, the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. He was suspended for the 2006 season after testing positive for cannabis four times.

I don’t regret my cannabis use during my career. Just the opposite – I’m very proud of myself, and very grateful that I was somehow able to be courageous enough to trust myself and follow my heart. I think the choices I made allowed me to play 11 years in the NFL and rush for over 10,000 yards, and then be able to walk away from the game and be healthy. I have a very active, vibrant life, and I don’t think I would’ve been able to create this life if I hadn’t left the game for a year in 2004.

I was in the middle of a personal transformation, and I was lucky enough not to resist it. I think anytime you go through a transformation in the public eye, it’s difficult. But I was smart – I left the country, and I was in a space where no one knew who I was. I got a chance to grow and get to know myself. When I came back to the States, I was a stronger person, in a better place to deal with it.

If cannabis had been legal back then, I think for sure I’d be going to the Hall of Fame – no doubt about it. Some say my numbers aren’t strong enough. But if I could have used cannabis and been allowed to be a positive person in the community and continue to play, then yeah – I think I’d definitely be in the Hall of Fame.

I understand the NFL as an entity. It’s just human nature to fight for survival. If I were them, I’d look to the National Hockey League, which doesn’t test for cannabis, and they don’t have any issues. To test the whole league just isn’t necessary.

I’m the kind of guy who’s always thinking about ways to improve, whether it’s to be a better person, a better father, a better football player – whatever. My mind is always working that way. I read, take in information. I find that when I use cannabis, it allows me to make connections as I gather information. I recognize patterns and make connections that give my life meaning. I’m really passionate about making the world a better place and being a better person.

I advocate for legalization, or at least its regulation and legalization. But I believe in using cannabis consciously, in ways that enrich your life. I’m a proponent of wellness. For me, cannabis has been a key tool for me in moving in that direction. I enjoy my life. It’s not perfect, but I feel engaged. I wake up happy every morning. And cannabis is part of that story.

I consider myself a healer of sorts, so I think healing is something that’s important, something I think everyone can use a little bit more of, both physical and emotional – especially football players.