“I’m repping my shirt today: San Diego State, baby!” exclaimed Kyle Turley to me on April 1. The Aztecs’ men’s basketball team had just come back from 14 points down in the second half against Florida Atlantic in the NCAA championship tournament to win 72-71, and Turley was thrilled. “Aztecs are gonna get it, hopefully, the championship, bro! Hopefully, this follows up with SDSU getting into the Pac-12. Then it’s gonna be over.” Turley lives in Tennessee now with his family, but he still has plenty of love for his alma mater, for whom he played football from 1993-97. The standout offensive tackle was named an All-American in his senior year, and was a first-round draft pick and two-time All-Pro in the NFL.

But his pro career was shortened by multiple injuries, and he retired in 2007. Football takes its toll on the body. During his second year in the NFL, he started smoking marijuana to help with sleep and body aches. He also took whatever the league’s doctors prescribed. “I was on Zoloft, Defeco, and heavy psych drugs to deal with vertigo and light sensitivity. I didn’t need any of those; why’d [the NFL doctors] put me on those? All they made me do is think of killing myself and other people.” Eventually, Turley stopped popping the pills and stuck with the CBD and THC he got from weed. “I woke up like I was out of a trance. The meds make you have all of those [suicidal] thoughts, and I haven’t had one since I got off of them.”

The pain pill regime was much the same in college, he says. “They get away with it more than anybody; there’s no oversight ? it’s college.” Turley recalls he and his teammates being prescribed anti-inflammatory pills to address their post-game pains. But back then, he steered clear of weed. Had he tested positive for THC in random urinalysis tests, he could have gotten the boot and forfeited his college scholarship. “Man, I was scared to take it; I wanted to go to the NFL.” So instead, Turley popped the prescribed pills.

Even after he went pro, there was risk associated with weed use. He says that even the league’s newer, more lenient policy allows only for a “THC level to 150 nanograms, “the [International Olympic Committee] level. And if you test positive for over 150 nanograms of THC in the NFL now, they have agreed and made a new law: it is an automatic at least one game you have to play without pay, and up to three games of playing and practicing. Going to work ? without pay. Some guys, potentially now, with the contracts that they have, that’s a million a game.”

But as risks go, he says, it was and is manageable. Players “can take hybrid CBDs and full spectrums in the hemp world. And if they are good at monitoring their [weed] content and using it every day ? not all day, maybe a nighttime thing – and they get a heads up on the drug test, then by the time they take it, they won’t be over the limit.” An NBC.com news report last year said that blood THC levels usually hit a high point shortly after smoking weed and can reach upward of 100 nanograms per milliliter of blood after about 15 minutes of smoking. Then THC levels quickly drop ? to less than two nanograms per milliliter of blood after about four hours.

Turley’s real objection to the 150 nanogram limit, however, is not that it’s ineffective as a deterrent; it’s that there’s a limit at all. “If you are going to put a cap on it, which is the dumbest thing in the world, you are saying that the number one regulatory system in the human body isn’t the thing we should be accessing to cure our athletes.” Here, he is referring to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which, according to Healthline.com, “plays a role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including sleep, mood, appetite, memory reproduction, and fertility. The ECS exists and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.” Turley doesn’t just want weed allowed; he wants it promoted. “Our biggest push is to have them, college, pros, everybody, stop testing for cannabis. To normalize cannabis and get this into the streets.”

Kyle Turley (center) with fans at the Gridiron Greats Celebrity Golf Classic.

To that end, Turley partnered in 2020 with former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon, former NFL offensive tackle Ebon Britton, and former NFL running back (and San Diego native) Ricky Williams to form the brand Revenant, which sells cannabis products in packaged flower, pre-roll, distillate, and edible forms throughout San Diego County and beyond, even reaching Arizona. (Patrick Henry High star Williams has since parted amicably with Revenant to pursue his own cannabis line called Highsman — the name is a play on the Heisman Trophy he won in 1998.) Britton says that “Kyle, Jim, and [I] have been speaking about cannabis as medicine for the football players for a while now. The number one issue facing NFL football players is CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.” CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disorder that can happen in people with a history of repeated blows to the head, often received while playing contact sports such as football or boxing. Britton says cannabis is “the only remedy on the planet that helps to heal the physical tissue in the brain. The federal government has a patent on cannabinoids, which have neuroprotectants and antioxidants.”

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