As a child of the late-80’s and early-90’s, it all really started with Ricky Williams. The Heisman Trophy winner, First Round Draft pick, NFL Pro Bowler and standout running back for the Miami Dolphins was the first to bring cannabis into the limelight. Again, maybe only if you’re a child of the 90’s, but after Williams was suspended by the league in 2006, the pandemic of cannabis use among athletes was uncovered for the world to see. He may not have known it at the time, but Williams took a culturally vital step towards understanding cannabis supplementation for – and by – elite athletes.

Today, Williams is still active as a cannabis proponent. He and his fellow teammate from his playing days with the New Orleans Saints (1999 – 2001), tight end Eddie Lee “Boo” Williams, co-participated in the 420 Games this year. The event is designed to remove the ‘lazy stoner’ stigma associated with cannabis use. They also co-founded the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, an organization dedicated to the advancement of medical marijuana.

And they’re not the only NFL players advocating for expanded athletic use.

Some NFL players have stepped forward in defence of cannabis use.

Countless former NFL stars have come out after their careers advocating for the pain relieving qualities of the Schedule I drug. Current NFL players from every NFL team are suspended seemingly on the daily for arrests stemming from marijuana possession, or for testing positive for cannabis use.

Recently, in unprecedented fashion, current NFL players, distance athletes, and triathletes have stepped forward about their cannabis use. There are multitudes of famous athletes who have seen their careers altered by cannabis, both positively and negatively.

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Marijuana is clearly a present substance in elite athletic circles. This has encouraged many famous athletes who were previously quiet to break their silence and come forward for cannabis as a superior pain reliever for athletes.

Avery Collins

Avery Collins is an ultra marathon runner from Colorado who advocates cannabis use.

This Colorado-based ultramarathoner has gone on record as saying cannabis helps him ‘stay in the moment and embrace what’s going on right then and there’. Last year, Collins won a 200-mile race through the Rocky Mountains with a time of 65 hours. While Collins also says he has never run a race high, the connection between elite training and cannabis supplementation increasing goal success is clear.

Rob Van Dam

If you immediately envisioned the epic mully-tail (mullet ponytail) swinging violently around the ring, or those epic acrobatic takedowns, you too were a child of the late-80’s and early-90’s. If not, you missed out. But you may have a second chance.

When not attempting to once again steal the limelight from a briefcase above a 20-foot ladder, Van Dam (real name Rob Szatkowski) has been quoted in the Washington Post as saying cannabis is not as much a performance enhancer, but rather a ‘life enhancer’.

Eugene Monroe

It takes serious guts to stand up to your boss. NFL offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is doing just that, taking the issue of cannabis use for pain relief right to his boss – Commissioner Roger Goodell. In a risk of millions of dollars, Monroe was published in a New York Times article last week calling on the league to re-evaluate its stance on cannabis use and supplementation. Goodell has commented as recently as the 2016 pre-Super Bowl festivities that the NFL’s stance has not changed, and will not change barring many hurdles, including an eventual vote by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).

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Michael Phelps

athletes who use cannabis michael phelps
A comeback after adversity is a great way to start changing people’s minds about you.

Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. While he has not taken the same steps forward as some other famous athletes of openly supporting cannabis use, his well-known previous use of cannabis and subsequent ability to return to peak physical form is a testament to the antithesis. His multi-national reach has the ability to change more minds and spark more conversations about cannabis on a global scale than nearly any other athlete alive.

Jim McMahon

The Super Bowl winning quarterback formerly of the Chicago Bears (1982-1988), spoke openly about his cannabis use both during his career and afterwards on a panel entitled ‘Cannabis and Athletics’ at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo in February. McMahon spoke candidly about his playing days under Coach Mike Ditka, saying Ditka called him a ‘pot smoker’ during practice. McMahon also spoke to the pain relieving attributes of indica-based marijuana strains he uses, today. This allusion that coaches and players knew of widespread cannabis use, even in the 1980’s, could be important to uncovering the best course of action for cannabis supplementation in the NFL going forward.

Cliff Robinson

Even the NBA has cannabis advocates coming forward.

The 1993 NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner once hated his nickname, ‘Uncle Cliffy’. To break its power, he invented one he enjoys much more, ‘Uncle Spliffy’. Today, Robinson has begun a first-of-its-kind cannabis sports brand under his new favorite moniker. You can find more information at

Robinson takes his involvement as an athlete a step further, acting as an advocate for squashing the typical ‘lazy stoner’ stigma.

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“People in Oregon know me as a basketball player, but I want to distill the stigma around cannabis, the misperception that athletes and cannabis are incompatible,” Robinson said.