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Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson launches cannabis line

Primitiv Group Co-Founder & Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson Jr. joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss his latest business venture into cannabis.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, football fans know him as Megatron, one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game. But former Detroit Lions player and now new Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson has his eyes set on a new prize. He's launching a new cannabis product line with his former Lions teammate Rob Sims. And Calvin joins us today, along with our very own Reggie Wade.

Calvin, a lot of congratulations for you on the new launch as well as a newly elected Pro Football Hall of Famer. When you look at the landscape right now in cannabis, it's certainly gotten much more crowded and competitive as more and more states have legalized it. So how does your line separate itself from the rest of the pack?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Yeah, Michiganders, you know, they love their craft everything, from the beer onto the cannabis. We view ourselves as a boutique cannabis. We call ourselves Primitiv because we believe that cannabis was an original medicine, hence the name Primitiv. So we truly believe in highlighting the plant's healing powers.

And that's what we're here to do is to bring a level of professionalism to this industry, operating at an excellent level while giving solutions to our people.

REGGIE WADE: Calvin, you're making the transition from the locker room to the boardroom. How hard of the transition has that been? And what lessons from the gridiron have you brought into this new business?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Yeah, there's definitely ebbs and flows, definitely a learning curve, especially coming into a new industry where it's almost like a moving target, trying to stay compliant. There's new rules that are made. You just have to be able to pivot.

But taking from the field, there's a lot of the traits that you gain from playing the game of football. And I think perseverance is one of them. You just got to hang in there, stay in there, knowing that there will be better days if we stay aligned with our goals.

ZACK GUZMAN: As a Bears fan, Calvin, I know well that you really did that against us a lot of times. So it's painful to kind of remember those memories. But it's a great career. And it was one that even me didn't want to see it come to an end because you've been pretty outspoken about why you retired a little bit earlier than people expected.

Pain was obviously a big issue for you. And you've talked about how cannabis has helped in all of that. I mean, how do you look at, maybe, the league's issues around it still to this day? And I'm curious if you were able to use it when you were still a player, if you would have been able to last longer in the NFL?

CALVIN JOHNSON: We're restricted from using some. But there's a moving target on when we got tested. There's annual tests. And you knew you were good until that next window came around.

Nowadays, it is, I believe, good for the players that they have laxed the rules a little bit and allowed them to maybe consume and heal their body in an alternative way than the opioids. And we know all the destruction that that does. So it's just about creating alternative ways, holistic ways that players can treat themselves.

And yeah, for me, it was a holistic way that I approached my career from the things I put in my body from the supplements to the food I ate, and, shoot, my medicine too.

AKIKO FUJITA: So Calvin, when you think about how the NFL policies have evolved, how much further do you think it has to go? I mean, you've seen the league sort of up the THC requirement-- I don't about the requirements-- but limits there. It feels like the thinking around the league has evolved. But you feel like it needs to go a little further?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I'm not going to say that. I'm happy that it changed for the guys at what it did right now. I'm not exactly sure what the numbers are on the limits and everything like that. But I know that it has relaxed. And it will continue to go, probably not all the way until, maybe, the federal law is relaxed. But you never know. That could happen in the next decade as well, God willing. [CHUCKLES]

REGGIE WADE: Calvin, you were recently a part of a roundtable where you discussed not only the cannabis industry but CTE and its effects on the NFL. How about what you're doing with this new company can help those affected with CTE?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Yeah, man. We've been blessed just through our partnerships. We started with Tommy Shavers. He's down in Lake Nona, Florida, right out right outside of Orlando. And his company, known as Nestree, they were there like a brain performance company. Imagine the workout room but for the brain.

So that's awakening what we thought were long and gone neurons in the brain. So they're the workout for the brain, per se. And they connected us with Harvard. And since then, we've been able to join the consortium that is up there that we have with Harvard. It's a plethora of companies, cannabis and other like-minded individuals, that are trying to look at plant matter or vital medicine and create alternative ways for humans to create solutions for themselves and heal pain and CTE, as we were talking about.

And I'd like to say, our focus in that consortium is pain and CTE, two things that people deal with on a daily basis-- not two things, pain in general, people deal with on a daily basis, you, me. It doesn't have to be the athlete, each and every person. And then, like I say as well, is CTE to try to create solutions for our brethren, not only NFL players. You have other sports athletes as well as veterans.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of arguments for the medicinal aspects. And we saw that kind of roll out across the states as more and more states legalized, given those rules. But you said you could see legalization here within the next decade. As a new entrant here, a new business owner in the space, there's some people talking about maybe seeing it this year. I mean, what's your timeline for when you expect federal legalization to finally, finally come through?

CALVIN JOHNSON: I've learned in this industry, once you put a timeline on something, it's not going to happen. Every time we put a timeline on, OK, we're going to get our license next week, um, no, we're going to give it like two or three weeks later. So I know not to put a timeline on those kind of things. It's not in our hands. All I could do is control.

Like I tell my team, control what we do. Control our attitude. Control our efforts and everything that we do. There are things that we cannot control. But for everything that we can, if we do those two things, we'll come out on top more times than not.

REGGIE WADE: Calvin, what do you former teammates and NFL alumni say about this new cannabis venture? They're down for it? What's been some of their thoughts?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Well, first and foremost, let me mention my partner and co-founder Rob Sims. We came into this thing together. We started doing real estate, found cannabis real estate. And we thought, hey, man, we could put a team together, or we could just lease this out to a cannabis company. And it was like, hey, we've seen the good and the bad. We could put a team together.

And this is where we are three years later. But could you hit me with your question one more time?

REGGIE WADE: Yeah, I said your former teammates and NFL alumni, how have they been-- they've been in your corner with this?

CALVIN JOHNSON: Aw, man, you know, they come in town. They love to see the facility. I mean, everybody has great praises. I would love to invite you guys if you're ever out in Michigan. But everybody that's seen our facility, they say it's one of the best facilities they've seen.

We're not an overly large facility. We're a commercial facility, but we're on a small side here in Michigan. But obviously, we're seeing a lot of growth right now and the recognition for our brand and that leading quality.

AKIKO FUJITA: Primitiv group co-founder and Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, it's good to talk to you today. And our thanks to Reggie Wade as well for joining in on the conversation.