NFL star and cannabis industry mogul Ricky Williams is urging the league to treat players with medical cannabis instead of addictive pharmaceuticals.
The former running back recently told TMZ Sports that he is thrilled that the NFL has finally started to chill out about weed. The long-time cannabis advocate doesn't think that the league has gone far enough, though. Williams described how most NFL team trainers regularly hand out prescription medicines to help players recover after a hard game. He went on to argue that trainers should instead be dispensing medical cannabis, which can provide many of the same benefits without the risk of addiction or overdose.
“I think the next step, though, is at the end of a game, if we’re on the plane ride home, the trainer is walking down the aisle and has two capsule cases — one of Ambien, and the other one of Vicodin,” Williams told TMZ. “And he’s walking down the aisle and saying, ‘Do you need any of this, do you need any of this?'”
“And the truth is, for football players, we do need something because it hurts, and you’re all revved up and it’s hard to calm down [and] go to sleep,” he continued. “And I’d love to see cannabis as being one of those things that the trainer is walking down the aisle and offering to those players.”
The NFL used to take a hard-line stance against cannabis use, just like every other pro sports league. Players were required to take both pre-game and random drug tests during the season, and anyone who tested positive for THC would be suspended. Williams certainly knows a thing or two about these old-school weed policies, as he personally got suspended for cannabis no less than five times during his 11-season professional career.
In 2020, the NFL finally started to acknowledge the fact that many players are using cannabis to help them recover. The league now only tests players for cannabis during a two-week period at the start of training, and players who test positive are fined, not suspended. The following year, the NFL even awarded $1 million in grants to researchers investigating how medical cannabis could serve as an alternative to addictive opioids.
But although the NFL is exploring the possibilities of medical marijuana, officials are still unwilling to authorize trainers to hand out weed to players. The league's more relaxed policies do allow players to take advantage of state-legal medical and adult-use cannabis programs, though. And Williams has launched his own brand, Highsman, to help provide a natural alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers and sedatives.
“We have an authentic message, and people are growing some really amazing flower that can really help people feel better,” said Williams to TMZ. “If we can be a person that can make that connection on the cannabis side, that feels great to us.”