Ex-Jet DE Washington, state Senator work to destigmatize cannabis …


Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center’s northernmost corner is a vast maze of booths teeming with cannabis advocates – all part of the fourth annual Cannabis World Congress Expo – and right smack in the center of the maw is New York State Senator Diane Savino, getting a crash education course on the Isodiol company’s hemp-based products. The lesson comes from none other than former Jets defensive end Marvin Washington.


It seems like an unlikely pair talking about the business of weed – the 53-year-old, Queens-born Savino and the still imposing, 51-year-old Washington, who is 6-6 and was born in Denver. But when it comes to the still growing cannabis movement, Savino and Washington are leading voices, and are on a parallel crusade to destigmatize pot, educate the public about the medical benefits of cannabis and most importantly, raise awareness about the opioid crisis plaguing cities and towns across the country.


“Stop using words like ‘weed’ and ‘pot,’ especially when you’re talking about medical cannabis,” says Savino, a Democrat who represents District 23, which includes parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. “We have to change the way people think about it.”


For Washington, who played 11 years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 1999, he wants the NFL and the Players Association, and sports leagues in general, to embrace the cannabis movement, and specifically cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating compound in cannabis, as a safe alternative to treat debilitating sports injuries to the brain and body.

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Washington hopes the NFL and its union will pour more money into marijuana research in the future, and he says he thinks the two biggest problems plaguing the league – concussions/traumatic brain injuries and prescription painkiller abuse – would be mitigated significantly if players had access to marijuana, which is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug.


“One thing in football – ex-players, they are fed opiates and pharmaceuticals throughout the week, from training camp until the end of season. That can be June to January. It’s not normal,” says Washington, the founder of Isodiol Performance products, which are THC-free, meaning they do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, the component of cannabis that gets you high. “I think the Players Association should demand that (current players) have an alternative to opiates. This is scientific-based. This is not hocus pocus. That’s where I want to see this in the very near future, players that have an alternative to opiates and I would like CBD to be a part of that.”


Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, but Savino says the challenge for the cannabis movement remains the stigma that has been attached to marijuana for decades. Attorney General Jeff Sessions already sent a letter in May asking Congress to eliminate federal medical marijuana protections.


“I write to renew the Department of Justice’s opposition to the inclusion of language in any appropriations legislation that would prohibit the use of Department of Justice funds or in any way inhibit its authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” wrote Sessions.

Commissioner Roger Goodell still against marijuana use in NFL

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Former Jet Marvin Washington at the Javits Center for Cannibis World Congress.

(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)


Savino says she finds it “absurd” that the government still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance – meaning the government has determined marijuana has no accepted medical use – and she adds that the cannabis movement is being hampered by a government that is woefully behind the times. She also says “whoever invented (the painkiller) Oxycontin deserves a special place in hell.”


“Normally when you see legislation moving, state by state, at some point the feds catch up and they realize, ‘OK, this is something that we should get behind, or we should begin to regulate.’ But you have this almost willful ignorance on the part of the federal government with respect to cannabis policy in general,” says Savino, who sponsored the Compassionate Care Act, which passed in 2014 and established a “safe and regulated” medical marijuana program in New York state.


“The fact that (the federal government) continues to maintain that marijuana is a Schedule I substance, and that it is dangerous and has no redeemable value, is just absurd,” adds Savino.


While Savino is a staunch advocate for patients suffering from debilitating conditions like multiple sclerosis or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be able to access medical marijuana, Marvin Washington continues to try and push the cannabis issue into the forefront of sports leagues, and advocating for acceptance of cannabis as a non-addictive means to treat chronic pain and other injuries, particularly those suffered by NFL players participating in a violent contact sport.

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Washington says former NFL player Ricky Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner who tested positive for marijuana during his playing days and who was suspended an entire NFL season (2006) for violating the league’s drug policy, is an important voice in the cannabis movement and will be viewed as a “prophet” in the future for how he embraced marijuana use when he played.


“Ricky, 20 years from now, he’s going to look like a prophet. He was way ahead of his time. He wanted to play football but he didn’t want to medicate with opiates,” says Washington. “He was cutting edge. In 25 years, I believe you’re going to see cannabis and CBD endorsed by all major sports leagues and athletes. This is going to become a lifestyle choice for them.”


“I think the NFL is well aware of the growing movement of the acceptance of medical cannabis. Taking a less punitive approach toward the drug while investing in learning how cannabis can help players medically is a win win solution,” says Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan, one of the only current NFL players who has vocalized his support for the cannabis movement.

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Diane Savino takes part in radio broadcast.

(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this year on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show that he was not in favor of removing marijuana from the league’s list of banned substances for recreational use.

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“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell told ESPN. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature.”


With regard to the NFL’s stance on investing money into marijuana research, or whether it would change its stance if marijuana was rescheduled, the league said in a statement to the Daily News: “We will continue to stay abreast of the science as it develops. We will always keep the health of the players as our priority in this and other medical matters.”


But with people like former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, Republican political strategist Roger Stone and the civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton – all three were keynote speakers at the Cannabis World Congress along with Savino and Washington – adding their clout to the cannabis movement, the movement could shift to an industry in the future.


“There just needs to be education. My complaint with (the NFL) medical board is why don’t they have somebody that’s been studying this plant for years? Who owns the New York Jets? What’s Woody’s (Johnson) last name?” asks Washington, referring to the Jets owner who is the great-grandson of the co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical giant.

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“They have a vested interest in keeping this organized lie that has been going on for 80 years. We have to go against it. People in the public eye can bring a lot of light to this issue,” adds Washington. “I’m going to continue to meet with more politicians, because the whole thing is education. They don’t know the difference between THC or TLC.” 

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