The storied history of cannabis and the NFL is not nearly wrapped up yet. Even as sports institutions become less strict about THC, CBD, and general cannabis use, there is still a stigma players have to face. At the same time, the NFL and high school- and college-level football are finally taking head injuries and other repercussions of the extremely physical sport more seriously. In the middle of it all, Kyle Turley, retired NFL athlete, has been fighting for cannabis acceptance and recognition to help heal the wounds of professional players.
Playing for the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs before retiring, Turley has had a formidable career with the NFL. He’s also dabbled in music, and now he spends his time advocating for cannabis and CBD. Here are his thoughts on how weed makes the world better.
What were some of your first experiences with cannabis?
I was in my second year in the NFL, and a player came to me and said that I should try cannabis; they saw me struggling going through a lot of issues dealing with the rigors of the game itself. Adjustments coming from college football to the NFL can be quite significant. And, on top of that, with all the money and fame and real-world problems that add on to that, I found myself in a situation where I needed help. My teammate gave me a ride home one day; I tried cannabis, and that was the first night I got good sleep and got my appetite back.
When did you first realize the impact cannabis could have on athletes?
I was able to give up all the synthetic medications that were prescribed to me over the years of playing football because of cannabis. Those things add up, and over the 20-plus years I was on them, I started seeing some serious side effects. I was desperate, had suicidal thoughts; they were controlling my life.
I always knew that cannabis was there, and as a last-ditch effort, I said I’m only going to use this and see what this does because of the side effects. I was using cannabis intermittently, as a buffer, and then I started using it all the time and got so much better. Cannabis was always there for me. It allows me to sleep, to have an appetite, and to deal with the stress and anxiety that life creates.
Then, moving back to California from Tennessee allowed me to be able to learn a lot more about cannabis and use it legally, to get an understanding of cannabis and apply it towards illness and healing.
When did you start to get really involved in cannabis activism?
When I first started using cannabis, I’d find something that works, and then they’d get shut down, and then I’d have to go somewhere else, and then they would get shut down. I realized it couldn’t continue to operate that way.
I got unbelievably upset with the system and what was being presented; I thought moving back from Tennessee and having a medical cannabis program in California would have been so much different, but a lot of things were still really archaic. I was like, ‘This has to change,’ and I wanted to help.
What advice do you have for people who are just now getting into professional sports and the NFL who use cannabis or want to use cannabis?
I think the biggest thing is, this is supported with science; it’s not just about what you or I think is correct. CBD is so successful because it works, so now we need to understand why this happens and why cannabis changes lives.
People are finally able to give up on opiate addictions because of the science behind cannabis. There’s so much that cannabis can do for your body, so much it can it can do for athletes. Doctors don’t always talk about the endocrine system and the cannabinoid system and how the two interact together, but it’s huge.
What do you want things to look like in five to ten years?
I think you’re going to see a shift in the players using cannabis versus using pills, and the results and statistics that come in when athletes are able to use full-spectrum CBD. We will be able to use cannabis specifically to address real injuries, and it can help people avoid surgery. My neck surgery and my back surgery, these things started with inflammation, so you’ll be able to eliminate a lot more of what holds athletes back.