Former NFL star running back Ricky Williams wrestled with the idea of becoming an outspoken advocate of marijuana use.

Sure, the public knew about his troubles that came from smoking pot. The league suspended him several times, including the entire 2006 season for violating the substance abuse policy.

Williams didn’t know whether to accept an invitation from former teammate Kyle Turley to speak at a marijuana advocacy conference a couple years ago. Turley and Williams played together for the New Orleans Saints.

“Even though the whole world knows that I’ve used cannabis, not everyone knows that I continue to use it or I support it,” Williams said. “So if I come out and speak publicly what is that going to mean?

“Finally, I realized it is who I am and what I do, and I believe in myself and I believe in the choices I make. So I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I started speaking, and I’ve been doing it a bunch ever since and it feels really good.”

Williams arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday to speak at this weekend’s World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. He sat down with the Tribune-Review to share his thoughts as Pennsylvania enters the realm of medical marijuana.

“It’s been very healing,” he said of speaking at conferences. “I think so many people have been vilified or demonized because of the stigma. Now they see things starting to change. It’s amazing.”

“People are either saying it can cure everything and is best thing in the world, or people are saying it is from the devil and is the worst thing in the world,” he said. “The biggest difference is back in the late 1990s, early 2000s, no one talked about marijuana as medicinal. We didn’t even call it recreational; we just called it being bad, getting in trouble and doing what you’re not supposed to do.”

“At our core we are all using it for some recreational reasons and also medical reasons,” Williams said.

The state health department is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form.

Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania will be available in pills, oils, tinctures or ointments.

Under state law, patients — after consulting with doctors — can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if a doctor certifies that they have one of 17 qualified medical conditions, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.
Kevin Provost, CEO of Greenhouse Ventures, a conference co-host, said the medical marijuana business continues to grow nationally.

“Outsiders may view the cannabis industry as an amateur, even underground industry and that’s not true at all,” he said. “You’re going to see investors, physicians, lawyers, accountants, athletes and insurance people who are now trying to leverage their skill sets in this industry.”

Source: Ben Schmitt, Tribune-Review Staff Writer.
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