Former Detroit Lions players Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims joined Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick onstage Wednesday at the Cannabis Capital Conference in Toronto. Johnson and Sims discussed industry activity in Michigan, their experiences in the NFL and ending the stigma around cannabis in specific communities.
For Sims, cannabis has a personal connection. His wife Natalie has Crohn’s disease, which he said required rounds of morphine drips to treat flare-ups. Now, with cannabis in her life, Sims said: "on a scale of one to 10, her Crohn’s is at a two.”
Sims suffered several injuries during his playing career, notably a torn pectoral muscle. Players are often prescribed opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin and told to take them whenever they feel pain.
"I could just imagine if CBD or another alternative was available for me at the time,” Sims said.
Ending The Stigma
Johnson said that ending the stigma around cannabis is a significant effort and one that is more difficult in specific communities. “If they had family members that went to jail for [cannabis], so, therefore, you don’t want your family members to experience that.”
Ending the stigma is one of the goals of Primitive, the cannabis company co-founded by Johnson and Sims. This is achieved by informing the public, Johnson said.
Education through experience and scientific data are two ways this is being accomplished, he said.
Johnson said his family has objections to cannabis, but he said he feels he's on the right path.
“I have a lot of family members that are totally 100 percent against this, but I know from my experiences, from the pain I dealt with to the products I’ve used like topicals — I know it’s a game changer.”
Should The NFL Legalize CBD?
When asked if his former employer should allow CBD use, Sims said players should have the opportunity to use it.
“[CBD] should be made readily available to players," Sims said. Players only have pain medications to use after surgery, he said.
Johnson, who holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season, stressed that no one should violate NFL rules and take CBD at this time, and said the rule could change when the next NFL collective bargaining agreement ends in 2020.
“It’s going to be up to the players, the NFLPA and the NFL when the next collective bargaining agreement comes up," he said. “It’s at those times the players have the most power to negotiate what they want with the owners.”
Sims said consumers should see Primitive brand cannabis flower and other products on shelves by the end of this year. The company has a 70,000-square-foot campus in Saginaw, Michigan and a 150,000-square-foot greenhouse.
Primitive is already looking into expanding in other states, Sims said, adding that Johnson's status as one of the NFL's all-time greats is helping to open doors and build a team of which both co-founders are proud.
Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick, left, and former Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson and Rob Sims at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference Wednesday in Toronto. Photo by Juil Yoon.
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