When the National Football League announced last week that it was awarding $1 million in research funding to two teams of medical researchers to study the impact of cannabis and CBD on pain management, it probably took a lot of people by surprise. Ricky Williams, whose 11 seasons in the NFL included two high-profile suspensions for using weed, was not one of them.
I know this because, just five days earlier, I was sitting on the balcony of the football-player-turned-cannabis-advocate’s Manhattan Beach home talking about his sports-themed weed brand (Highsman, which launched in late 2021, is a not so subtle reminder that he’s the same guy who won the Heisman Trophy in 1998), the intersection of sports and spirituality, how prioritizing inner peace over outer fame resulted in his decision to leave the game and the league’s recently softening stance toward cannabis consumption.
“Football is a brutal sport,” Williams said during our conversation (excerpts of which appear above as Episode 6 of The Times’ “Green Room” video series). “And to me, the NFL’s responsibility is to give players all reasonable means to take care of themselves … I think the NFL owes it to its players.”
While the NFL certainly isn’t there yet, both the research funding announcement and the relaxed punishments for THC-positive players are indications that opinions like Williams’ are at least being heard. And that means the ball’s in play — and headed in the right direction.