Ricky Williams, whose NFL career was marked by marijuana use and advocacy — leading to occasional public ridicule — knows that times have changed with regard to weed’s public perception, and he is now moving into the marijuana business himself.
But he is no ordinary pot purveyor. Forget the “Harold and Kumar” images you may have of the running back, who failed four drug tests during his career. Williams, like many former NFL players, has long claimed familiarity with the medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids. It’s just that everyone else is catching on now, with even some NFL leaders signaling that they’re open to researching whether to change medical marijuana’s banned status.
Now the former running back is launching his own brand, Real Wellness by Ricky Williams, featuring salves, vape cartridges and tonics that contain “either hemp-derived cannabidiol [CBD], tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] or both.”
Williams, 40, was always ahead of many of his colleagues in exploring alternative methods for healing and treating pain. And now, as the Cannabist points out, broader attitudes are changing about pot, with a recent Quinnipiac poll showing that 91 percent of voters favor legalization of medicinal marijuana.
The journey for Williams included teaching meditation after his NFL career; he also took a 2004 football sabbatical during which he studied Pranic healing in California. Perhaps it would have been surprising if Williams had not gone into the marijuana business.
“I’m a healer now,” the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner told the Cannabist. “I’m excited for that world to converge with cannabis.”
Real Wellness, which is launching in California, has products designed for daily use and also includes herbal extracts.
“I am known as a professional football player,” Williams told the Sun-Sentinel. “In the last 14 years, I have been educating myself and training as a health care practitioner.”
Williams’s products are being developed with OutCo, a Southern California medical marijuana dispensary and consulting firm, and will be sold in dispensaries in California, where Williams lives and where marijuana is decriminalized. Prices for the products range from $35 to $70.
“Surprisingly enough, our research found that the main demographic coming into the [cannabis] market are women ages 35 to 60,” Williams told the Sun-Sentinel. “Cannabis coming on the scene is a reemerging of herbalism back into our culture.”
Williams and his previously unorthodox interests prompt considerably less laughter now than they did 15 years ago. NFL players are becoming aware of the dangers of opioids and anti-inflammatory drugs, which team doctors formerly freely prescribed to relieve the chronic pain and possibly help with the concussions that result from playing a brutal game. Eugene Monroe, the former NFL lineman, in May 2016 became the first active player to publicly call for the NFL and NFL Players Association to remove cannabis from their list of banned substances. Monroe donated $80,000 to University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins researchers to further study marijuana use in professional football players.
“There’s enough anecdotal evidence already to say, ‘Hey, listen, we know it’s not toxic,’” he told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore in 2016. “‘We know it’s safer than what we’re already doing.’ ”
Monroe, who said last year that managing his pain with pills was “slowly killing me,” learned the differences among at least 113 cannabinoids marijuana contains. THC is the psychoactive compound, the reason for recreational use. But cannabidiol, or CBD, has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect and can be extracted into oil. In pill form, it doesn’t render a high.
“My life is literally at risk here,” Monroe told Kilgore. “Like I said, I’ve got children, man, and I worry for my future. I’ve already had a few concussions. It’s time for us to grow up, to move past ‘Reefer Madness,’ to understand this as real medicine.”
Williams started preaching a similar message years ago.
“When they write my obit, I want it to talk about the people I’ve touched and the lives I’ve changed,” Williams told the Cannabist. “The last line might say, “He played football.’”