Marvin Washington says many of his NFL teammates used cannabis to unwind and ease the pain that inevitably comes from playing America’s most violent game — but it wasn’t for him.
“I hung out with the guys who liked to drink and chase women,” says Washington, a former defensive end who won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos in 1999. “I knew guys who smoked. But it wasn’t my deal.”
These days, however, marijuana is very much Washington’s deal: The 51-year-old is an entrepreneur with a line of hemp-infused products for athletes. He’s a crusader for the healing powers of cannabis. He’s a leader of a budding movement of former players who are calling on the league and its union to embrace cannabis as a solution to two problems that threaten the future of pro football: traumatic brain injuries and painkiller addiction.
“One of my goals is to get cannabis accepted by the athletic community,” says Washington, who was drafted by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 1989 draft. “The NFL has a safety issue and it needs to look at this plant. The NFL needs to follow the science. I don’t want to kill football, I want to make it safer — with marijuana.”
Washington has interests in four cannabis firms, including Isodiol, a Swiss company that launched a line of hemp-infused sports drinks earlier this year at the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Washington says he is using his positions with these companies to provide jobs, investment possibilities and entrepreneurial opportunities for African-Americans and other communities hard hit by America’s decades-long war on drugs.
“I’m not talking about affirmative action,” Washington says. “I’m talking about a level playing field. I don’t want set-asides, I want inclusion.”
Washington is scheduled to moderate a panel at “Cultural Diversity in the Cannabis Industry,” coming up March 31 in New York as part of the Viridian Cannabis Investment Series. Joining him are other former pro athletes from the NFL, NBA and NHL, including Ricky Williams, Cliff Robinson, Dale Davis and Darren McCarty.
Washington has used vaporized cannabidiol (CBD) in the past to ease the aches and pains that have followed him after 11 seasons in the NFL; these days he uses Isodiol’s CBD drops and CBD-infused water to battle muscle soreness and inflammation. He’s also become an unofficial resource for retired NFL players seeking help for chronic pain, depression and other long-term health problems.
“Ex-teammates reach out to me looking for help,” Washington says. “I hear from veterans suffering from PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury) — and even my mom and her friends.”