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Reuben Droughns

Super Bowl Champion and Cannabis Advocate Reuben Droughns: “I’d Rather My Players Smoked Pot”

Few football players have a resume like Reuben Droughns: after winning a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2008, he took a job in Serbia as the assistant coach of Vukovi Beograd, a Central European Football League team in Belgrade—but not before being investigated by the DEA for growing cannabis in his home in 2010. 

Today, Droughns lives in Denver, Colorado and remains a fierce advocate for cannabis. The retired running back spoke candidly in an interview with Cannabis Health about his experience with cannabis, as well as the ways it’s helped him navigate life after football.

“I started experimenting with cannabis at an early age, probably at about 15 or 16, and like everybody else, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he says. “Today, I use it to keep myself calm, and to alleviate some of the pain and swelling in my body.” Mentally, Droughns says cannabis is also a way to bring himself “down to the same level as everyone else.”

Reuben Droughns: Assistant Coach to Cannabis Advocate

Droughns’ cannabis advocacy began through work with former teammate and quarterback Jake Plummer. (Plummer is a co-founder of Athletes for Care, a non-profit organization Droughns also works with.) In 2016, he appeared in a campaign with Plummer calling for more research into CBD for the treatment of symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. 

Since then, things have taken off for Droughns, who has teamed up with Denver-based retailer Lightshade as the host of two new web series. The first, “Higherside Chats with Reuben Droughns,” brings in guests like Tatum Bell to smoke pot and talk shop, while the second, “Doobin’ With Reuben” offers up quick product reviews. 

Reuben Droughns

Even with more formal, digital ways to discuss the benefits of cannabis, he says he still appreciates the opportunities to speak with people directly, especially in person.

“I live in a more conservative neighbourhood, and a lot of my neighbours are older, and they’re starting to ask me questions about pot,” he says. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come, and how much has changed when it comes to the stigma around this plant.”

Cannabis Better for Players? Reuben Says Yes

While the NFL has historically been rather tough on cannabis use, more recently the organization has begun to change its tune. In 2020 players voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement that would effectively eliminate suspensions for positive marijuana results on drug tests. News broke in February that the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association would be looking into CBD as an alternative treatment for pain. 

“I think it’s a wonderful thing, the fact that we are talking about this, and that the NFL is actually starting to listen to its former players,” he says. “We’re able to give the current players a voice, because we’re done—we’re not getting paid, but we’re also not getting suspended for speaking up.”

Droughns says the stories people are always most surprised to hear are the ones describing how easy it was to get prescription medication during his time in the NFL: “We used to be able to go into a treatment centre and grab anything we wanted; it was like a smorgasbord of opioids,” he says, “but we had to ignore the fact that pot is not harmful to you.”

Given the serious potential for harm that can come with the overuse of opioids, Droughns says if he was a coach, he’d make it clear: “I’d rather my players smoke pot.”

Helping Former Athletes

While he speaks for current players who might fear retribution from the league, he also calls on former players too, “the ones that are hooked on opioids because of all the pain and surgeries that they’ve been through, just to tell them there’s a better choice.”

Droughns says both current and former athletes who want to see their leagues take more interest in the plant’s potential ought to reach out to their players’ associations to raise awareness. If that fails, he says, find former players that are involved in the cannabis business and get in touch. 

Reuben Droughns
In a recent episode of Higherside Chats, Reuben Droughns interviews Tatum Bell.

Lately, some of his favourite advocacy work has been with former players, offering them insight into cannabis as an alternative to the medications they might already be taking. 

“Here in Colorado, we have a lot of former athletes on the hockey side,” says Droughns, name-dropping Kyle Quincey, a former NHL player who also works with athletes as a cannabis advocate. “We’re able to talk to former players that aren’t sure about jumping into cannabis yet, and as a group we can guide them a bit.”

Speaking to his own experience, Droughns says following a recent brain scan, his neurologist informed him that his cannabis consumption was indeed beneficial for his brain: “he said, ‘you need to keep doing that because it’s calming you down and keeping you at a normal level’.”

With the support of his doctors, his family, and other former athletes, Droughns is grateful that he’s finally able to speak openly about something that has brought so much positivity to his life. As for the NFL? Droughns has hope:

“If my neurologist is understanding of the benefits of the cannabis plant, I think that eventually the NFL and other major sports leagues will be able to understand the benefits of it as well.”

Related Story: Meet Flavie Dokken: The Competitive Ultra Marathon Runner Who Uses Cannabis To Keep Her Going