To start off the year off right, the one thing I think we can all agree upon is that medicine is a very individual experience. Now I have always loved cannabis recreationally, even as a kid, but into my thirties this plant really has taken on a new meaning. As I am dealing with my own PTSD, anxiety, etc. I would need more hands to count all my friends and people I have lost to drugs, specifically opiates. So it goes without saying that mental health is a topic I am very passionate about. And to be able to watch an NFL game today where these players, the same icons that kids look up to, are openly talking about these very same issues, it feels like a dream come true. Growing up, there still seemed to be a stigma about men sharing their feelings, I love to see that change and am excited to be a part of it. Which brings me to a question I had as I watched a game one afternoon, and one I’m sure we’ve all had watching athletes retire at the same age most of our careers are just beginning… what next? To answer that question let me introduce one football legend that found a new path that we are walking on together, the one and only Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron!
Even if you don’t follow football, you may have heard of Calvin Johnson, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year as just the third player at age 35 or younger to make it in. Now it would be easy for me to get lost in this article with all of his football accomplishments, dubbed Megatron for his insane strength, dexterity, and robotic-like abilities on the field, but it is what he is doing off the field and in retirement that is turning heads today. Growing up in Georgia he stayed away from cannabis so he wouldn’t get in trouble with his mother or worse yet have a dreaded run-in with the law. “Anybody you know, especially in the brown community, they were really heavily penalized for having cannabis,” Johnson said. “Being Black folks, that’s why it was so in our community and in our families, it was so heavily stigmatized.” And sadly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, in the last decade Black Americans were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be charged for possession. But when Johnson tried cannabis for the first time during his freshman year of college at Georgia Tech, his outlook started to change and he began to question the negative stigma associated around the plant.
Following Johnson’s first experience trying marijuana recreationally, he started to see the medicinal benefits it provided after highly physical football practices and games. He said that it also would help with, “the daily drag to get up out of bed in the morning, just really inflammation at the end of the day.” And today Johnson, after an incredible career in football, is sharing his new vision hoping to end common stigmas among athletes regarding cannabis. Fortunately, the NFL recently loosened its regulations on cannabis, eliminating suspensions, shortening the testing period, and upping the amount of THC necessary for a positive test, but there is still a long way to go. This is where Johnson, along with his former NFL teammate, Rob Sims, come in finding the motivation to start their own cannabis research company, Michigan-based Primitiv. And now are collaborating with Harvard Research helping to find solutions for players that are transitioning out of the NFL dealing with chronic pain, as well as, traumatic brain injuries. “Yeah, football, Hall of Fame, that’s a great legacy,” Johnson said. “But I would love for my legacy to be able to create something here that goes beyond, creating that quality of life for people and so many different applications. That’s what I’m all about.”
If you had made $100 million dollars before turning 40, would you be ready to start a new business? Could you be seen sweeping floors and holding open doors with your staff? Well that’s exactly what Calvin Johnson did when he launched his new cannabis company Primitiv along with their 12,000 square foot cultivation facility. “He’s not a diva, as they say, as some receivers tend to be,” said Derrick Moore, who introduced Johnson during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. And that was one of my favorite facts I discovered while putting together this article, everyone said Johnson was simply a nice, humble guy who found a new passion. Teaming up with Rob Sims once more they saw the potential of what it could do for pain management during their playing careers and have grown to become two of the biggest advocates for what they believe is a safer alternative to painkillers. “We don’t call it bud. We call it medicine,” said Sims. Johnson also became more open to the possibilities of cannabis after retirement from football when he was on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2016, almost having to quit because of beat up, swollen ankles. That is until he was given a special jar with a golden cap, a THC topical which was a new way for him to get the medicine into his body and alleviate the pain holding him back. Today he says topicals are his favorite and rubs them in his joints before playing a round of golf. However one wishes to use cannabis, smoking it, ingesting it with amazing edibles and drinks, maybe as a pill, or just rubbing it in, it is exciting to see us have access to this marvelous plant once again. Honestly, I found Calvin Johnson to be so inspiring, I may have to put his poster up again like I was 10!