Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and ex-NFL lineman Rob Sims are teaming their marijuana company with Harvard University to research the benefits of medical marijuana to treat chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE, and pain management.
Johnson and Sims established their marijuana business under the name Primitive and said Thursday at the Cannabis Capital Conference in Detroit that they're hoping for a long-term relationship with Harvard that leads to paths of healing for NFL brethren and everyday Joes.
Primitive participated in Harvard's Global Catalyst Health Summit in May and committed to give research money and start a consortium with the brain-performance company NESTRE and Dr. Wilfred Ngwa. NESTRE does brain training with NFL athletes, including former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Josh McCown.
Harvard will provide medical research for Primitive, run clinical trials tied to CTE and pain management all with support from Harvard Medical School.
The medical school will provide support and quality assurance for any co-produced products.
Because CTE is only currently diagnosed postmortem, Johnson and Sims are hopeful Harvard's medical group can make advancement toward living diagnoses with Primitive assisting in treatment plans.
"As being former athletes, we know there's some sort of CTE or some sort of damage, 99 percent I think they say in the study," Sims told ESPN. "So that means I may be walking around with some form of it. It's really about the hope. Just providing hope, improving the game, making the game safer for former players after they are done. Really just being able to help people.
"I'm a second-generation NFL kid, both my father and father-in-law. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly of what it looks like when you're done playing ball. If we can help this facet of people suffering from CTE or other cognitive disease, that's the real goal here."
Johnson, the six-time Pro Bowl selection, his wife, Brittney Johnson, and Sims were originally denied a license but have since been approved.
Johnson retired from the NFL following his ninth season with Detroit in 2015. He is the franchise's all-time leader in receptions (731), receiving yards (11,619) and touchdown catches (83).