“If you get a concussion, you can mitigate the damage by taking CBD within an hour of the incident. It's an antioxidant and neuro-protectant for the brain. This is something that needs to be happening in football and all contact sports.”
Marvin Washington, cannabis advocate, former NFL player and Super Bowl champion, changes the conversation for little league parents, athletes, and the African-American community as a defender of and pioneer in the medicinal cannabis space.
The Highly: What has been your relationship with cannabis over the years?
Marvin Washington: Back in high school I smoked it before my games. It gave me clarity and focus. I got away from it—and I'm still away from it on the THC side—but I am a big proponent of CBD.
TH: With what we know know about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), what are your thoughts on the dangers of football? Do you recommend it?
MW: It's a personal choice whether you let your kids play or not, but as of right now, I couldn't recommend anybody playing football with the issues that surround it, until it changes. I'm not trying to kill football, I'm only trying to make it safer at all levels, so that everybody can play this game that's given me, and so many others, valuable life lessons. But as of right now, why would you let your child play a game where you could possibly get a brain disease that could lead to mood and behavior issues, all the way up to suicide?
TH: Could CBD really change things? I mean, at the end of the day you're still really hitting each other over and over and over again. It’s just so unsafe.
MW: It can be, for the point of contact. If you get a concussion, you can mitigate the damage by taking CBD within an hour of the incident. It's an antioxidant and neuro-protectant for the brain. This is something that needs to be happening in football and all contact sports.
But football has another issue: the opiate addiction of former players. We're four times more likely to abuse opiates. It’s a fact that whenever CBD is introduced into a community, opiate addiction goes down anywhere from 15 to 25 percent.
I'm going to believe that God and all the medicine and religious people were right for thousands of years, and not just these American men who decided to prohibit this plant. We need to get back to bible-based medicine, which is plant-based, which we did for thousands of years and get off of these synthetic, addicting, toxic things that are killing us.
TH: These doctors that are doling out the prescriptions. Should they take some blame?
MW: Look up the Sackler family — this thing has been a marketing campaign by them to introduce opiates. They’re the ones that came out with Oxycontin and said it wasn't addictive. Their name is all over museums, institutes of higher learning, and all over buildings. And I believe that is blood money. You can't really blame the doctors because doctors don't have the time to study about pain management. But they have these sales reps and this morphine campaign that comes in and tells them that this is what you should be pushing on your clients. It's basically poisoning people but it's made them probably one of the richest families in the world. I don't blame the doctors and the trainers because I don't believe they're going out to to do harm—not the majority of them. It's the pharmaceutical companies that you need to be going after. Because the doctors and the nurses and the healthcare providers, they were fooled too.
TH: Do you think it’s too soon for full legalization? Do you worry that Big Pharma could swoop in and turn the medical cannabis into something synthetic?
MW: I welcome big pharma, big tobacco, and big alcohol getting in there. Because that means it's legal on the federal level, and then we can get their billions of dollars of research and development and see about all of the unique cannabinoids in this plant and see what they can do. I think the industry and the people will go against something synthetic.
TH: You sued Jeff Sessions—that takes guts. Were you afraid the government would mess with you? [In 2017 Marvin along with a list of plaintiffs sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an attempt to challenge the 1970 Controlled Substance Act that puts marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, in the same class as Heroin and LSD. This Schedule 1 status prohibits marijuana from getting the proper research].
MW: Somebody has to do it. I think they have more fish to fry than to come after me. We’re in appellate court right now but I’m happy that the momentum is on legalization. It's going to happen state-by-state or it's going happen in one stroke. But it's going to happen.
TH: So, what about this idea that you need just a little bit of THC to activate the CBD? Or does straight CBD work for you?
MW: Hemp-based CBD isolate works best for me. It's like oil for the tin man. It helps me work out every day; it helps me create homeostasis as much as I can for somebody who’s 52 and played in the NFL for over a decade. I don’t have the soreness that impedes my workouts. That’s what it does for me but you have to find out what works for you, because I’ve got a lot of friends—former athletes—who do a combination of both, or they do the THC, which is fine because all we’re trying to do is feel better.
TH: How do NFL players have the resilience to play all the time? Especially two games in a week?
MW: Here's the thing that's been around the NFL for years: you can play hurt but you can't play injured. Everybody at some point is hurting, because you're banging into each other. Once you have that first or second practice, you're going to be sore, you're going to have these bumps and bruises, but you’ve got to keep playing. So, yeah, it's a pain game.
TH: Are they taking opioids just to get on the field?
MW: Just to practice. You see some of these injuries happen and then see the guy coming back and playing within two weeks. And in a normal world that's a six-week injury, but I know how you get on the field, I know how the sauce is made, and we need to change course on that. You can't have these guys on this pharmaceutical regimen starting in July, ending in January or February, and then they extrapolate that over five, ten, twelve years, and then they retire and all of a sudden they’re supposed to cut it off? For most guys it doesn't happen. For 20,000 former players — we’re four times more likely to take opioids—we're talking about 25 percent. I was talking to a former player three weeks ago in New Orleans and he's been on pain pills for 30 years.
TH: Wouldn't you think that these football players would revolt against the league?
MW: I know a lot of players who, instead of taking these pharmaceuticals that the doctors and trainers are handing out, are medicating with cannabis. A lot of these guys have their own cannabis cooks. I know one particular cook that cooks for, like, a quarter of a team. I know all these guys that are going that way instead of taking these toxic anti-inflammatories and addictive pain pills. But I will say this: if I have a broken leg, I don't want cannabis. I want something that's going to deal with acute pain, and that's pain pills. But I don't want to do it for 16 weeks, I just want to deal with the acute pain and then transition to something else that's not as damaging to my body. That doesn't have high potential for addiction.
TH: How are all these football players using cannabis if it’s illegal?
MW: You know the date of your test and you have to be off it for 30 days prior.
TH: How do people react to your message?
MW: They're receptive to it because I'm just sticking with facts. There are 22,000 papers written about cannabis; 11,000 peer reviewed papers. If you want to know about it, there's enough information out there to tell you what I'm saying is fact. And parents don't know about this because most people, after they leave high school, don't even read a book. And they get their information from one source but they don't know about what cannabis can do and what hemp can do, strictly in a contact sport like football, to protect their sons who are putting their bodies and minds on the line. I'm happy to go out and educate them about the medicinal benefits from a neuro-protection, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory aspect. Most of the injuries and 90 percent of the illnesses that happen in this country come from inflammation in your body.
TH: Who should be governing cannabis in your opinion?
MW: I say leave that to the people and let them decide, because we've decided that alcohol and tobacco are okay and I don't know any medicinal benefits of that. We've decided that these societal ills like sports gambling are okay. So, leave adult use up to the people and let them decide and the state decide. But on the medicinal side, I think this should be in every state and every city. And not only can it offer medicinal benefits, think about the economic benefits it can offer to the communities that have been hit the hardest by this plant. The brown and black communities. You won't have to worry about re-identifying, you know? You can re-identify your own community with the money that can come in with cannabis. You can get off the pills for high blood pressure, diabetes and all these illnesses that are unique and particularly devastating to minorities. Cannabis can do that. That's why I feel like the people who are in this space — we're all part of a collective — and on the right side of history.
TH: Amen to that.
TH: If you had 30 seconds with President Trump, what would you say?
MW: Leave the states alone because of state rights, and try to really study the medicinal benefits of this plant and see how it could heal this nation.
TH: Who do you think cannabis can help the most?
MW: This movement is so universal. I will say this about the people in their 60s and 70s—the baby boomers. They've exploded every market that they've been in, and if they get behind cannabis, they'll do that, too. Seniors have the biggest jump of cannabis use out of any demographic and I think that will go along way to bringing down the negative stereotypes and connotations.
TH: What does your cannabis routine look like?
MW: I can tell when it's going to rain or when the weather's going to change because my knees and hands and fingers hurt. But lately, they haven't been, because I infuse my body with CBD from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed. And now my company, Isodiol has a good natural CBD sleep aid. Not only does it help me rest but I'm still infusing my body while I'm sleeping. I use our drops, face cream, our tinctures. I use everything. And not only am I on it but I have my significant other Shahana Williams, my mother, sisters and my friends on it.
TH: Tell me about your work with CBD company Isodiol.
MW: I believe Isodiol is the leading CBD company in the country. There's two companies in the world that have approved APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredient): Isodiol and GW pharmaceuticals. Everybody else is generic and we're the real thing. Isodiol doesn't consider itself a CBD company, it considers itself a pharmaceutical company. It's approved in Central America and we're going to be approved in Mexico pretty soon, and up in Canada.
We have Isoderm by Dr. Ron Aung-Din, who speaks at medical and autism conferences. We've got our sports line, Iso-Sport, which I did a joint venture with a couple of years ago. We work with the Arnold Classic, we do elite football camps, basketball camps, and things of that nature. We're a fitness and nutritional company, and we infuse our products with CBD.
I'm very happy with the direction of the company because I know that when this prohibition does come off, some of these companies are going to get swept away but Isodiol is going to be there. We keep our eye on the goal and the goal is to be a pharmaceutical company that just has CBD.
TH: Why CBD Isolate, specifically?
MW: I'm a full plant advocate, I am. But if I'm an active athlete or work for the government, I'm getting drug-tested. If I'm going full-spectrum CBD, it has everything in there, including THC. There is a trucker who lost his job and he's suing the CBD company because he bought CBD at a roadside store, and it said CBD, but it was full-spectrum and he got drug-tested and tested positive for THC. With isolate, we isolated the CBD from the hemp plant, and it's 99.999999 percent CBD—no THC in there—and it's safe to take if you are getting drug-tested.
TH: If you’re a betting man, when will this be legal?
MW: If I was going to put my money on the table, I would say in less than five years the NFL will have a sensible cannabis and marijuana policy. And that's when we stop being a movement; that's when we stop being a collective, and become a real industry. I got into this four years ago. It was a matter of, if, if, if. Now it's just a matter of when.
TH: What’s next for you, Marvin?
MW: To affect some change, I want to get on these multistage, publicly-traded boards. As an African American and a person of color, it's important that we have a seat at the table, and that's the next step in the match race of this industry: more African Americans and people of color need to start getting on the boards and making a difference. I'm going to keep advocating for the medicinal benefits of this plant for athletes and keep advocating to look into the facts about this plant. I'm trying to have forums and different expos specifically for our community, so they can learn about this plant.
TH:What do you think about the stigma around cannabis?
MW: We need a certain amount of responsibility that's put on us, so that's what gets me when people say, “Oh, I wanna change the stereotype about this plant blah, blah, blah.” And then you go on their social media page and they’re dabbing, smoking and having these bong hits and it's like, ‘Come on!’
If you're going to do it for ailment then explain it, “This is part of my routine. This is what I'm taking, this is the strain, this is the dosage, and this helps me get through whatever it is. You're not getting high to get high. You're getting high to feel good. Life is ugly, you’ve got to be strong and dignified and it is a beautiful thing, you know.
TH: How do you stay so grounded?
MW: I always try to read and have quiet time to get in touch with my soul, because I definitely want my soul and my spirit to prosper more than anything down here. People get so caught up on these material things; if you ever want to show your daughters something that has broken up families, that people have killed and died over, that people have lost touch with friends and families over, take them to a junkyard and it's all there.
The most important things are your relationship with the universe, your creator, and your family. That's it.
On a personal note:
I run around endless cannabis conferences, which you can imagine can get quite repetitive and dull, however, the sports panels are always 100 percent captivating.
There is always a common thread that anyone who has been through a medical drama can relate to: your health isn’t right, your healthcare providers are frustrating, and it spills into your life and relationships. Things get beyond dramatic, and in comes cannabis. It helps you help yourself in a healthy way and you feel blown away with the spirituality that came along with it. This is what cannabis does. Sports figures–please, you need to have a bigger voice here. Especially as the cannabis market goes mainstream, so does the heart and soul of the story.
In 2018, ‘the year of chaos’, Marvin speaks in the middle of a movement in such a calm and positive way. It was an honor.