More than 10 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2019, aaccording to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Former Buccaneers offensive lineman Ian Beckles feels that number is too high.
During his time in the National Football League (NFL), Beckles saw how players were expected to handle pain. “How we dealt with pain was the way the doctors presented it to us, and that was with pills,” Beckles told Cannabis & Tech Today in a recent Cannabis Tech Talks podcast appearance.
He shared his disgust that players were advised to take addictive medications, “stuff that’s killing people every single day,” rather than anti-inflammatories like cannabis or CBD.
“Instead of handing out pills, they should be handing out joints as everybody’s leaving the complex,” Beckles added.
Beckles advocates for cannabis as well as other plant-based substances, such as kava. He owns and operates Dignitary Tea and Kava House in Tampa, Florida. “I drink it in lieu of alcohol and pills and it makes me feel good,” he said. “I’m all about plants over pills.”
Dignitary Kava House is also home to Tampa Bay’s first medical cannabis consumption lounge. The establishment is part of his Dignitary Life brand established in 2015.
The brand encompasses several of Beckles’ on-air offerings. He’s spent more than two decades engaging with the Tampa Bay community as a radio and podcast host.
Beckles & Recher on 95.3 WDAE and In the Trenches offer sports insights, while Plant Power and Flava in Ya Ear cover plant medicine and pop culture, respectively.
His Plant Power podcast features politicians, musicians, doctors, and innovators sharing insights on cannabis, kava, kratom, ayahuasca, and all things natural.
Each session is recorded live from Dignitary Kava House. Beckles remarked more than once during his discussion with Cannabis & Tech Today that plant-based therapies aren’t more popular because pharmaceutical lobbyists are financially invested in hampering alternative medicines.
Disrupting Big Pharma
A recurring theme in many of Beckles’ discussions around cannabis is the need to move away from pharmaceuticals. A peer-reviewed research article published in the journal PLOS ONE in September found pharmaceutical companies lose money each time a state legalizes cannabis.
The average market loss for drugmakers is nearly $10 billion per legalization event.
Pharmaceutical companies apparently have a lot to lose from cannabis. There is a massive economic incentive to lobby against legalization.
Beckles believes the core of prohibition is financial.
“If people figure out that CBD can help you out, Big Pharma will lose trillions of dollars. I mean, the number is astronomical, so they don’t want that out there.” Beckles noted about plant medicine and alternative therapies on his podcast Plant Power.
He offered an example of the problem with overprescribed pharmaceuticals.
“I just had an appointment the other day with a neurologist for the NFL. At the end of the appointment, he goes, ‘You clearly don’t have CTE.’ And I say, ‘No, I know that, but I have to do this, as you know.’ At the end of the whole thing, he goes, ‘Do you want a prescription for Adderall?’”
Beckles continued, “I asked why, and he goes, ‘Do you want it?’ And it just blew my mind. That’s got to stop. Those are the thieves and the burglars screwing the rest of the country, and they’re also the ones living on top of the hill in the biggest houses.”
Alternatives for Athletes
Beckles’ nine-season career in the NFL left him with chronic knee pain.
While he noted he didn’t start using cannabis until he was 35, he said had he started using it during his NFL career he “would have probably been a better athlete.”
He shared he was fearful of it growing up because he didn’t want to “get busted for marijuana” and have it impact his dreams of playing in the NFL.
Many readers are likely familiar with NFL players suspended for cannabis use. Randy Gregory, a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, was suspended for the entire 2017 and 2019 seasons for failed marijuana drug tests.
Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams was suspended multiple times for cannabis use before ultimately retiring and pursuing a career in holistic medicine. The list goes on and isn’t limited to the NFL.
Michael Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist, was suspended from the USA Swimming team for three months because a picture surfaced of him using cannabis. He never tested positive for the substance.
In recent years, Beckles feels the stigma lessening and believes lingering fear is based in ignorance.
“Usually, it’s just being mad at a plant they don’t know anything about.” While he admits there was a time when he wouldn’t have dared to publicize his affinity for the plant, he’s seen a sea change in the past five years. He mentioned he feels more open about cannabis use now.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass anymore. I’m not breaking any rules. I’m certainly not hurting anybody.”
This article first appeared in Volume 4 Issue 3 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.