When Marvin Washington retired from the NFL, America’s cannabis revolution was in its infancy. In 1999, only one state allowed for medical use and making cannabis available for all adults was unthinkable.
Two decades later, legal cannabis is among the fastest growing industries.
With the beginning of adult-use legalization in 2014, cannabis companies needed spokespeople to represent their brands. Washington became brand ambassador for a CBD company. His research for the role opened his eyes to the value of cannabis medicine.
“I just did a deep dive into the plant,” Washington told Profiles in Legalization. “The medicinal benefits and seeing how it’s been demonized throughout the years.” The knowledge spurred him to action.
He’s gone from player to advocate to entrepreneur. Now Washington’s hosting an education-focused cannabis show called 5th Quarter.
From NFL Star to Cannabis Advocate
During his eleven years in the NFL, Washington racked up 40.5 career sacks, mostly with the New York Jets. The pinnacle, however, came in 1998. During his penultimate season he won a coveted Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos.
In retirement, Washington went on to advocate for player wellness, including bringing attention to the NFL’s chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) problem. When he found that cannabis could heal without the side effects and addiction of prescription drugs, it was a game-changer. Like many people seeing through the smoke of reefer madness, accurate information and changing attitudes significantly impacted his life.
“I’ve gone from a brand ambassador,” said Washington, “to having my own brand and starting my own organization, Athletes For Care.” He says he’s also involved with “four or five” cannabis companies besides his own. Athletes For Care focuses on the health, safety and wellbeing of the athletic community.
When approached about hosting an educational cannabis show, Washington jumped at the chance. The first episodes of 5th Quarter were shot in August, 2016. Though the show’s premiere was delayed until last fall, the athlete-turned-entrepreneur wasn’t idle in the meantime.
From 2017 to 2020, Washington gained attention as the named plaintiff in a lawsuit to reschedule cannabis.
The plaintiffs in Washington, et. al. v. Barr, et. al. sued on behalf of two children with seizure disorders treatable with cannabis. They tried to force the government to correct its mistaken classification. While over two-thirds of states have medical cannabis laws, the federal government still prohibits the plant as having no accepted medical use. Washington joined with the children’s parents in requesting that the law be changed to reflect lived realities.
The courts ultimately dismissed the suit on procedural grounds, but it gained attention for the cause and burnished Washington’s advocate credentials.
We caught up with Washington by phone as he prepared to speak at the National Cannabis Industry Association‘s annual conference. He was there with fellow cannabis-friendly former athletes Rachel Rapinoe and Calvin Johnson. Profiles in Legalization asked about his own cannabis use, his new show and whether there’s a conflict between industry and advocacy.
Editor’s Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Do see any conflict between the cannabis industry and cannabis advocacy?
No, because no matter what, it’s not legal in the federal level. No matter how you look at it, until it gets there, we’re all just running the same race, swimming in the same river, in the same direction. The race hasn’t started, so there’s no conflict because I’m pushing, you know, advocating for the plant. And I’m advocating for this industry. I don’t see any conflict of interest there.
Do you use cannabis products yourself?
CBD. I’m a heavy CBD guy. I take it from morning to night. Topping off my night with CBD sleep tablets and start my day with CBD coffee and a tincture. I take a daily vitamin that has vitamins C, B and D, and CBD, in it. So yeah, I use it. I’m a big proponent.
How did your educational cannabis show, 5th Quarter, come about?
It was the brainchild of [Cannected.TV executive producer] Kerri Accardi. I met her in 2016, and she had this vision of educating the public about CBD and the plant. She approached me and we started shooting probably a month or two after that. The [first six episodes were] actually shot in 2016, but the information that we give is so evergreen. People are still to this day starved for information, so it’s gotten a tremendous reception. I look forward for the next three episodes just to keep getting the word out and educating the public about this plant.
What do you hope to achieve with 5th Quarter?
The goal is to educate the public, the novice, and even the people that have [consumed cannabis] for a while. Showing them that this plant is medicine. This plant has been put here, and this is the way we’ve medicated, for thousands of years. Showing them– particularly my community of athletes and former athletes– about this plant and what it can do, versus the opiates and benzodiazepines. Having the Cannabis Nurses come on and talk about it from a medical point of view and talk about your endocannabinoid system. I think people are wanting that information and 5th Quarter is a good platform.
The first two episodes of 5th Quarter are currently streaming on Cannected.TV™.
Cannected.TV™ is available on the most popular television streaming platforms including, Apple TV, ROKU, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung, and LG. You can also watch Cannected.TV™ on your mobile device, smartphone, and tablet by visiting Apple’s App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore.
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