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NFL ‘moving in the right direction’ on cannabis, Calvin Johnson says

NFL Hall of Famer and Primitiv Founder Calvin Johnson joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the NFL's stance on cannabis and why he decided to enter the industry.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: Welcome back, everybody. And happy 4/20 with Congress divided over cannabis legislation. Can the sports world actually lead the way in normalizing marijuana in America? Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Megatron Johnson is betting that is the case. Calvin founded cannabis company Primitiv Group with former Lions teammate Rob Sims. And Megatron joins us now from their dispensary in Niles, Michigan. Good to see you, Megatron. So everyone knows you played nine seasons in the NFL. You set the record, which still stands, receiving yards in a season. How did you use cannabis during your career? How did it help you?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Oh for sure. I mean, in a plethora of ways. But two main things, just insomnia. So helping me with my sleep, which goes a long part in helping with your recovery and really helping with pain. So those are the main two ways that it was able to assist me and obviously keep me off with a lot of other synthetic opioids.

DAVE BRIGGS: How many guys do you estimate percentage wise used it during your NFL career? And how many do you think use it today?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Man, that's a great question. We've always contemplated this in the locker room. I always say it's probably more like 75% of guys have actually ever used cannabis. Currently in the locker room with the new legislation and the new ways the CPA, they have allowed guys to test higher, have higher doses in their system. I mean, I would say that number has at least bumped up at least 5% to 10%.

DAVE BRIGGS: So we're talking 80%, 85%. To that point, you mentioned the new CBA. The NFL does not suspend guys for positive tests. It does fine them. And it has raised the threshold for a positive test. Are you happy with where the NFL is on this? Do you still have advice to the league on how better to handle cannabis?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I think it's just really just looking at it, what's the alternatives out there? What are they actually using versus the plant alternatives, the natural alternative versus the synthetic things that they're giving us now? So I think that it's really just looking at what's better for the body. Things of this Earth, those are the things that should go into our body. If you think about it like that, then no. We're not where we need to be at today. But they are moving in the right direction. I can say that.

DAVE BRIGGS: OK, so you mentioned how you used it during your playing days. But that wasn't what really inspired you to go into the business. It was actually a "Dancing With the Stars" injury. Not everyone knows that. If you could tell us about that story and what made the light go on that this was a business you wanted to be in.

CALVIN JOHNSON: Yeah. like I said, I used it in my playing days. But light really went off for me when I was on "Dancing With the Stars". I was about to quit the show because I was having the chronic swelling that I suffered from in my playing days. A buddy of mine that lived in LA at the time, he brought me a topical. And the topical went on to alleviate me of the swelling. And so at that point, I was like, OK, we got to get to the science behind this because this is a healer. There's many healing properties to the plant.

DAVE BRIGGS: We just showed a graphic earlier about how many guys that are former players that have gone into the cannabis industry, here they are. Ricky Williams, and Paul Pierce, and Gary Payton, and Marshawn Lynch. Kevin Durant, who still plays doesn't have an official business but he has a partnership with Weedmaps. How are these guys helping drive the conversation? And I have to point out, all of the names that I've mentioned, Al Harrington, Allen Iverson are all Black. How would it help, if at all, if there were a white player in the industry?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I mean, any of our brothers. I think he's really just educating people about the healing powers of the plant. And that's why we're here, to educate, to innovate, and to do research on this plant. I think that the more, just the more people you have, the more heads you have at the table, the more people that are pro cannabis, the fact that this thing is going to turn around, and more and more people that will be able to help. But it's really just about getting the messaging out there that this isn't a gateway drug, that this is something that's going to help you. It's a natural alternative to those things that you're taking right now.

So I think that is definitely worth a try for anybody that's trying to figure out where to go, how to help alleviate their pain. And I'll start by telling people just to research what is the endocannabinoid system and how does it affect me? So understanding what you endocannabinoid system is would really shed a lot of light for people, as it did for me, and those that are around me.

DAVE BRIGGS: And that stigma is really key to your mission there at Primitiv. A lot of people think of stoners sitting on the couch and eating Doritos. But that is not what you're after there at Primitiv. How do you think you can change that stigma and aim really at current and or former athletes?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I think that we just stick to our guns, and what we came in here for. We set ourselves on a mission. And we're just following that mission. Like I say, it's to innovate, to create new products that have new applications that people haven't seen-- I mean not that people haven't seen before, but are more bioavailable to your body, more efficacious. So people are actually getting what they're expecting from their medicine. To innovate, to educate, and to do research on this plant.

So those same products that we want to bring to market that we want to be innovative in, we want to be able to do research on those things and really see how they're affecting the human body, such as our research partners are already doing, Harvard, UPenn, John Hopkins, and such.

DAVE BRIGGS: And one of those ways is through beverages. Tell me about the beverage space that you guys are looking into.

CALVIN JOHNSON: Yeah. So we have coming up this summer a new product line. It's called Primitiv Performance. And the special thing about Primitiv Performance is that it'll be infused with nano. And one thing about nano is just like I was just talking telling you just now, it's more efficient. It's more like a-- it's personalized medicine because you know exactly what you're getting, from microdose to whatever dose it is that you need.

And just having that more, more bioavailable, that just allows it to be more productive for us and using it. And not [INAUDIBLE] at the same time, you don't need as many cannabinoids when you're using nanotechnology because of the small size of it. It's more bioavailable. And it's able to go directly into your bloodstream, in turn getting right to creating a solution right away.

DAVE BRIGGS: So it's essentially a recovery sports drink. Can't wait to see that. Want to get your quick take on some football news. You played your entire career in Detroit, retiring early rather than returning to Detroit. Conversely, the game is entirely changed today. In the last month or so, we saw the two best receivers in the game, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, both traded in their prime. What's your reaction to this? And how much has the business of the NFL changed?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I think the business of the NFL hasn't changed so much. One thing that has changed is the business minded players. I think guys are more focused on one, treating their body as their business, and two, looking forward to what business they're going to go into after football. I think that if anything, that's the thing that's changed the most that I've noticed in the NFL.

DAVE BRIGGS: But were you shocked that those two were traded?

CALVIN JOHNSON: No, that doesn't surprise me. If Tom Brady could get traded, anybody can get it.

DAVE BRIGGS: All right. Calvin Johnson, NFL Hall of Famer, the founder of Primitiv Group. Great to see you again, Megatron.

CALVIN JOHNSON: Thanks for having me, Dave.