Ricky Williams: champion of cannabis continues to challenge the NFL's stigma.

By: Aaron Diamond

The Football season is underway once more, which means plenty of entertainment, but also a continuation of the medical cannabis vs. NFL battle. Sports and Marijuana are not supposed to mix, its what mainstream media has told us for decades. In America, if a student played sports in high school or college, they never partook in substances being enjoyed at parties until the off season. The reason? Random drug testing: a positive test for a banned substance (such as marijuana) could see them cut from the team roster, or worse - expelled. This stigma has the entire athletic universe under the impression that marijuana will demotivate you or negatively impact your performance. Having US Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps, burst out of the cannabis closet was a massive win for the athletic marijuana user; but before his high-profile revelation, there was another elite athlete looking to change the sports world’s negative view of cannabis.

Ricky Williams was breaking ground in the marijuana industry before he even knew it. Having failed multiple tests throughout his career in the NFL, he was made out to be a ‘stoner’ with no passion for the sport of football. He retired from the Miami Dolphins in 2004 - after being suspended for failing another drug test - and commentators pigeonholed him as a marijuana addict who was leaving the sport to go smoke all day, everyday. Williams lost fans, who started blacking out his name on the back of their jerseys; especially because the Dolphins played one of their worst seasons in franchise history. After winning the Heisman trophy for the Longhorns and leading the league in Rushes for his first season with Miami, Ricky Williams did not leave the NFL to get high all day.

Ricky's intelligence was apparent from a young age. As a curious introvert who suffered depression; it is no surprise Ricky found solstice in the practice of Ayurveda - An Indian ‘alternative’, holistic approach to medicine widely denounced as a “pseudoscience” in Western society. Pharmaceutical companies cite reservations about the remedies offered by Ayurvedic healers, but their approach resonated with Williams. During his absence of the 2004 season, Ricky Williams attended the California College of Ayurveda where he found ways to effectively relieve his mental and physical pain.

Many injured NFL athletes have experienced something like this: the doctor walks into the room, offers a cursory examination and then hands out some pills before wheeling out the “get some rest” motto. Feeling unsupported by the NFL’s medical program, Ricky Williams felt the need to look elsewhere - eventually finding and using cannabis - despite its use being banned in the League. These days, Williams is a passionate advocate for the use of cannabis during exercise and physical therapy.  

Ricky has teamed up with multi-athlete, cannabis advocate and wellness expert, Clifford Drusinsky and Jim McAlpine - organizer of the cannabis-friendly sporting competition, The 420 Games - to develop Power Plant Fitness: One of the first gyms that allows patrons to openly ingest marijuana while working out.

Members have to go through physical tests to set personal standards; limiting usage while participating in intense cardiovascular exercise. Just like a real dispensary, each patron is personally examined before recreational use.

His success in this venture is rightly leading to him being optimistic about the future of cannabis in the NFL and beyond. Indeed the number of subsequent NFL players past and present who have added their efforts to the movement of "CBD for CTE" is encouraging.

Above all, Ricky Williams is confident of two things: the stigma of marijuana not being compatible with athletic prowess will soon be history, with him and other athletes continuing to change the way our public views cannabis, especially in the sports realm. The second thing Williams is confident about is him eventually receiving acceptance into the Football Hall of Fame - once views on cannabis change - and his ‘troubles’ are no longer deemed to have tainted his successful career in the NFL. We salute Ricky on his endeavours and hope that time comes sooner rather than later.