EXCLUSIVE: Ricky Williams on Highsman, Cannabis Advocacy, NFL Social Change — 'Cannabis Really Opened My Mind'

Zinger Key Points
  • Former NFL star Ricky Williams shares his journey from football glory to cannabis advocacy with Highsman brand.
  • Breaking stigma and promoting wellness.

In an exclusive interview with Benzinga’s Cannabis Insider, former NFL star Ricky Williams shared his remarkable journey from gridiron glory to becoming a prominent advocate for cannabis.

Williams, best known for his illustrious football career and winning the Heisman Trophy, has successfully transitioned into the cannabis industry, founding the lifestyle brand Highsman.

His dedication to changing perceptions around cannabis use and promoting its benefits for personal wellness is both inspiring and transformative.

From Football Field To Cannabis Advocate

Williams played in the National Football League for 11 seasons and briefly in the Canadian Football League. His college football career at the University of Texas was distinguished by numerous accolades, including winning the 1998 Heisman Trophy and breaking several NCAA records.

After being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1999, Williams faced several challenges, including suspensions related to his cannabis use. Despite these setbacks, he remained steadfast in his belief in the benefits of cannabis.

“I realized there’s a lot of people out there that could benefit from cannabis, who are afraid of it, who aren’t open to it,” Williams said. “I can use my story and what I’m doing to open those doors and introduce this wonderful plant to people.”

Founding Highsman

Williams launched Highsman to create a platform where sports enthusiasts and cannabis users could embrace the plant without fear of stigma. The brand offers three distinct cannabis collections designed for different times of the day: Pregame, Halftime, and Postgame. These collections include energizing sativas, balanced hybrids, and recovery-focused indicas.

“Pregame is the kind of like to get you going to get you started,” Williams explained. “Postgame, I would move towards something more indica-leaning to help me relax, recover, and get some good rest.”

Highsman also features a line of apparel and accessories, reflecting Williams’ commitment to quality and authenticity. “If you look at the plants, the plants don’t lie,” he said, emphasizing his hands-on approach in selecting cultivation partners.

The NFL’s Societal Impact

Williams believes that the NFL’s evolving stance on cannabis parallels broader societal changes. “Now, it’s really the case that no one’s hiding it as much anymore,” he said, noting that both players and coaches are more open about their cannabis use. He hopes the NFL will eventually recognize the benefits of cannabis, similar to its endorsement of alcohol.

Reflecting on his own career, he shared how cannabis helped him see beyond football.

“Cannabis really opened my mind to realize that I’m more than just a football player, and I have more to offer the world than just scoring touchdowns,” Williams said.

He recounted the challenges he faced as a professional athlete who used cannabis at a time when it was heavily stigmatized. “Imagine someone on their deathbed, and you ask them what was the greatest thing they did in their life, and they said, ‘I scored touchdowns.’ You had this sense like, ‘No, this person stopped living a long time ago.'”

He emphasized that cannabis allowed him to envision a life beyond football, unlocking his imagination and potential.

Williams observed that the perception of cannabis in the NFL has shifted significantly since his playing days. “Half of our coaches were smoking, but it was this weird world where they’re allowed to because they don’t get tested, but we’re not supposed to because we get tested.” He highlighted the hypocrisy and evolving transparency within the league, noting, “The NFL testing has become so much more lax, and it is less restrictive than it was in the past.”

Williams expressed hope for the future, envisioning a time when the NFL would fully endorse cannabis. “My hope is that the NFL, through their proper avenues of research, starts to see for themselves that this can actually benefit the players and benefit the league.”

Expanding Highsman and Driving Cannabis Policy Change

Looking ahead, Williams is excited about Highsman’s expansion plans and its political activism. The brand recently launched a political action committee, the Cannabis Freedom Party, aimed at influencing cannabis regulations, particularly in Florida.

“Florida’s got huge potential once it switches over from medical to recreational market,” he said. “We’re seeing if we can mobilize forces to get people out to vote to make sure that it passes.”

Williams discussed Florida’s strategic importance in the broader cannabis legalization movement, noting that a successful transition to a recreational market could set a precedent for other states. “We’re becoming more politically active, and our main target right now is Florida. It’s a good experiment to see if we can mobilize forces to get people out to vote.”

Highsman’s mission is not just about business expansion but also about cultural change. “It’s time,” Williams said. “I’ve always thought about politics, but it was always so far away. Now that we’re so close, and we’re starting to see the federal government take cannabis seriously, it’s time to make a difference.”

Williams remains committed to his mission of elevating the legitimacy of cannabis and inspiring others to embrace their authentic selves. “Success means nothing without authenticity,” he said, underscoring the core value that drives both his personal journey and Highsman’s vision.

Cannabis rescheduling seems to be right around the corner. Want to understand what this means for the future of the industry? Hear directly for top executives, investors, and policymakers at the 19th Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, coming to Chicago this Oct. 8-9. Get your tickets now before prices surge by following this link.

Image: Shutterstock

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