It’s been a decade since Jake Plummer threw a pass in the NFL, but if you talk to him long enough you’d think he has a few seasons left in the tank.
Jake is fired up—whether he’s talking about his newborn daughter Laverne, his love for Saturday games of handball, or the crazy Colorado weather—his enthusiasm for all things life is surging. But with a comic book like collection of old broken bones, sprains and surgeries, you’ve got to wonder how he keeps it up. The answer to Jake’s apparent perpetual youth is cannabis, specifically cannabidiol or CBD. In fact, CBD’s positive impact on Jake’s health has helped him to understand that being healthy is a choice, but not a choice that everyone is free to make. To overcome this “choice discrepancy,” Jake has embarked on a crusade of cannabis activism designed to empower individuals to take back control of their wellbeing.
Growing up in a small Idaho town during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Jake was in a world of his own, free to indulge his boyish curiosities. With two older brothers to show him the ropes, Jake quickly took a liking to sports.
“I had people close to me that were using cannabis for a long time. For me, I grew up in an environment where it was, you know, not what Ronald and Nancy Reagan were telling us. To “just say no,” and that marijuana is “a gateway drug…”
“I wanted to be just like my brothers, when I was young. I always wanted to play football when I grew up, but I had dreams of playing running back for the Raiders.”
Just as Jake was developing his talents as a student athlete, America was in the thick of its War on Drugs. Initiated by President Nixon in 1971, America’s War on Drugs inaccurately portrayed a societal epidemic of drug abuse and addiction as it pertains to cannabis. Propagated through public schools, churches and even athletic teams, the War attempted to classify all drugs as “evil” or “dangerous”—even cannabis. As a young athlete, Plummer steered clear of drugs—even cannabis. It wasn’t the political regimes fear mongering tactics that kept Plummer on the straight and narrow—he was simply too busy focusing on football to carve out time for a typical youth’s “extracurricular” activities. But Jake’s indifference to drugs—specifically cannabis—was not wholly a result of his dedication to athletics. Jake was given an education about drugs, he was well aware of them—it was his education that guided his choices, not the political scare tactics of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“I had people close to me that were using cannabis for a long time. For me, I grew up in an environment where it was, you know, not what Ronald and Nancy Reagan were telling us. To “just say no,” and that marijuana is “a gateway drug,” “it will make you dumb”—I was like what? I’ve talked to people that are extremely smart, brilliant, like Mensa smart, and they used cannabis on the regular. They’re not dumb. So I knew right away what was true and false. So for me there was never any stigma.”
Jake never attached the stigma to cannabis that was force fed to Americans during his formidable years. He stayed focused on the journey that would land him in the NFL and give him the platform from which he speaks today. With ten years between him and his tenure with the NFL, Jake has taken time to reflect on his career. His focus has shifted from playing the game to finding ways to make it safer. He believes cannabis could be the answer.
“As I evolved and got out the game, football was still, and will always be, a part of my life. It doesn’t define me, but it is a large part of what walks into the room with me. I am fine with it, I love it, but I want to use it for good. I hope that it allows some people that maybe wouldn’t have listened to some of the things I am saying about cannabis, to listen. Now, they might respect me in a way, because I have always been very truthful and honest. I wouldn’t be advocating if I didn’t believe in its ability to mitigate pain, and just your overall wellbeing.”
After his second hip surgery in 2014, Jake started using cannabis regularly to manage his pain and to help him develop a healthy mental state. He continued to use cannabis to manage pain, but it wasn’t until he discovered CBD that he noticed an overwhelming increase in his mental and physical wellbeing. His experience with CBD inspired him to take action on behalf of his fellow NFL players.
Professional athletes like Jake put their bodies through hell to entertain us on game day. Objectified by “the man,” jeered and cheered by the fan, professional athletes are chewed up and spit out of their respective leagues like old wads of chewing tobacco. To make matters worse, players are doled out little envelopes of addictive painkillers to mask the pain from their battle wounds. They are given few options when they are in pain—you either take the pill or shot and keep going, or you sit down and watch another guy take your place. What if this wasn’t the case? What if players had a natural option to manage their pain? These are the questions that burn inside Jake.
Jake has recently become an outspoken advocate for the responsible use of cannabis in professional sports. Cannabis was the answer to the issues Jake was facing in retirement, and he suspected it would answer many of the issues that players face during their careers, like depression, traumatic brain injury and chronic pain. He has taken his experiences in the NFL and his experience with using cannabis and forged them as one into a powerful movement.
“I am not fighting these guys, I don’t want to fight anybody that big. I just want to keep sending emails to remind them that we are not going to allow them to make the statement (about cannabis) at the Super Bowl and then let the offseason go by…”
He is advocating for the responsible use of cannabis in the NFL, but also bringing attention to the myriad challenges that professional athletes face. Jake believes that the players should have a voice that transcends the limitations of the NFL Player’s Association and empowers them to speak from experience.
“These guys are speaking from experience. We are not just advocates, but we are living walking experiments. A lot of us have used cannabis and found relief. Relief from not just pain or depression, but for some guys it saved their lives—helped them not pull the trigger, helped them get their families back. That’s powerful stuff. It has to resonate with somebody in their heart, that this is a valid option that should be looked into. Not just state-by-state, but by our Federal Government, by big organizations like the NFL. The control is not in the hands of the people that need it. If you look at the NFL, why wouldn’t you want your guys to have everything possible in their systems to play better and longer. But I don’t even know if they want us to play longer. They want the new guys with bleached mohawks.”
Professional sports organizations are systems built around the almighty dollar. This leaves little room for players to voice opinions that stray from the company line. Jake’s advocacy for cannabis use in the NFL has morphed into a campaign for choice. Players are setup by their employers to blindly destroy their bodies and Jake is slowly but surely putting a stop to this shameful exploitation of talent. Jake’s message has earned him a new team of supporters that are assisting him in moving the chains on cannabis in the NFL and society as a whole. He and his fellow advocates are making progress. The NFL and its officials have become increasingly aware of the movement to research and allow cannabis in the league. Slow as the NFL’s reaction may be, there is progress—but now Jake and his supporters are preparing a new initiative for change.
“I am not fighting these guys, I don’t want to fight anybody that big. I just want to keep sending emails to remind them that we are not going to allow them to make the statement (about cannabis) at the Super Bowl and then let the offseason go by, and then bang the season starts, then all of a sudden they’re back in the cycle again. They say they want to research it—well we’ve got it all setup. Roger Goodell, are you going to write a check? A million dollars would go a long way.”
After successfully influencing the NFL to take a closer look at cannabis, Jake feels empowered to push for even greater change—and he won’t be alone. In recent months, Jake and an impressive list of current and former professional athletes from all leagues, founded the not for profit organization Athletes For CARE (A4C). The soon-to-be launched organization will focus on confronting important health issues facing the sports community and the public at large. Whether it’s addiction, depression, chronic pain or improving overall health and safety in sports, Jake and his peers at Athletes For CARE are uniting as one voice to advocate for research, education and compassion when addressing these issues.
With the inception of A4C, and its imminent launch, it appears that Jake and his fellow cannabis advocates are ready to embark on the next phase of their journey to bring choice and wellbeing to not just athletes, but the general public. Though it isn’t uncommon for professional athletes to take up philanthropic efforts in retirement, Jake has taken a path seldom traveled by NFL players. His passion for helping others is evident in everything he does. He remains faithful that his cannabis advocacy will help to unite professional athletes under an umbrella of wellness and purpose. As he continues to pollinate the minds of NFL officials, and the general public with anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ role as an alternative medicine, there is no doubting that change is on the horizon.
“I hope they turn to A4C. Come find us, we’ll help you, we’ll help you find your path and get involved with something. Come back and be part of a team that is doing good. That’s where this all came from. To bring these guys into the fold and get them off their soap boxes and back to doing good. You guys made it to the top of the game, and you can do anything in the world—we’ve just got to put our minds to it.”