Former NFL players end-run federal marijuana research blockade

April 18, 2016

By  for sfgate.com

A team of ex-NFL players has launched an end-run play around America’s federal blockade on medical marijuana research.

More than 30 NFL stars called the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition announced this week their own controlled trial of medical cannabis extracts to treat lingering damage from their sports careers.

The Coalition announced a partnership with Richmond, CA.-based Constance Therapeutics — among the most advanced cannabis extract labs on the West Coast. The eight-year-old medical marijuana collective will provide quantified, medical-grade formulations of marijuana oil for Gridiron Coalition members, who will self-monitor their results.

The limited trial isn’t the gold standard for medicine, but with medical marijuana research blockaded by the U.S. government, the Gridiron trial is another way to generate data on cannabis’ efficacy.

“My mission is to save lives and change minds,” stated Gridiron Cannabis Coalition co-founder Boo Williams, a former National Football League tight-end who played for five years with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. “I have learned that cannabis is a science and a plant that helps people. My experience with cannabis has taught me that it is a far better option than the pills that get shoved at players. If I can save one life or improve one life with this study that GCC and Constance Therapeutics are doing, I will have accomplished my mission.”

Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon appears in March with Ricky Williams and Marvin Washington — all members of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition. (courtesy of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition)

Williams’ eight-year NFL career included a torn knee, achilles tendon, shoulder injuries and several concussions. He smoked marijuana for most of his career for both neuro-protection and anti-inflammation effects, he said. When NFL drug testing forced him to stop cannabis for two years, his cognition and pain worsened, he said, in an interview with Smell the Truth. At the same time, NFL teams were under-reporting player concussions, he said.

“You can tell the difference between when you weren’t using cannabis and when you weren’t — the clouded thinking and sluggish thoughts that followed concussions, and the body pain,” he said. “It was some fun years of my life, but it was also a curse as well because of the injuries that came with it.”

Like many pro players, Williams felt discarded by the NFL after his career ended. Depressed, Williams attempted suicide in 2011. He laid down on a pair of railroad tracks, but several homeless people saved him, and he entered rehabilitation.

By then end of his stint in rehab, Williams’ doctor approved medical marijuana for insomnia. Today, he assists other ex-pros with the transition to post-league life, including mental health, and career training. He said the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition can help advance medical marijuana legalization nationwide, because the public listens to pro athletes more than other voices in the debate. They are experts on sports injuries, and they’re celebrities.

“Because we’re put on a higher stage, people will listen to us more than people will listen to a doctor,” Williams said.

“We hope to have a lot of big-time and former athletes come out and fight for the cause to be legal, not just legal everywhere, but especially inside professional sports, because we all know that cannabis helps us a lot, and I’m quite sure the sports industry and NFL, they know that as well.”

During the Gridiron trial, Constance Therapeutics will supply tightly quantified, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis oils high in THC and CBD. Housed in a biotech park, Constance Therapeutics is not open to public, and works on a referral basis with leading oncologists, and other physicians. “We’re besieged with referrals,” said founder Constance Finley.

Research-grade cannabis oil from Constance Therapeutics will be used in the Gridiron trial. (Photo by David Downs)

“I was inspired to work with GCC because so many athletes have been failed by traditional medicine, just as I have,” stated Finley, CEO of Constance Therapeutics, and a former compound pharmacist. “After cycling through several prescription drugs with the hope of finding relief from my rare autoimmune disease, I reluctantly tried medical cannabis. This ended up being the decision that would save my life, and it led me to develop my own cannabis extracts and form Constance Therapeutics. It is now my mission to help others seeking alternatives to what are often highly addictive pharmaceuticals.”

The trial should add more scientific evidence to the case for medical marijuana.

The NFL currently fines and suspends players who test positive for the substance, despite player claims that marijuana can be a more effective stress and pain remedy than prescription painkillers, or stress and insomnia drugs.

The NFL follows federal law, which states that pot is more dangerous than heroin and is illegal. Thirty-five states have medical marijuana or CBD laws, and several more could join their ranks this election.




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