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Can Marijuana Help Treat CTE? Former NFL Star Partners With Harvard To Find Out

Calvin Johnson, known to millions as Megatron, has also launched a medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan.

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Former NFL star Calvin Johnson has joined a growing list of former professional athletes who are getting into the marijuana industry. He is a partner in a new enterprise that is set to open medical marijuana dispensaries across Michigan.

Donald Miralle | Getty Images

But Johnson is also taking his part in the industry a step further, giving money to Harvard University to help fund a study on the potential of cannabis treating CTE; which, according to a 2017 study from Boston University researchers, was found in 99% of former football players' brains studied.

Johnson, who spent his career with the Detroit Lions and is making a six-figure donation to the research through his medical marijuana company, Primitive, told ESPN that he believes his company “can be in a position to develop a treatment for CTE. "

Related: Harvard Study Say Cannabis May Help Fight Pancreatic Cancer

CTE is caused by repeated brain trauma

CTE stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It’s a degenerative brain disease that occurs in people who have repeated brain trauma — which is exactly what you get in the NFL every Sunday.

Symptoms include dementia and amnesia. Some have argued that CTE also has played a role in the deaths of former players who have taken their own lives or found it difficult to live on their own. It’s been found both in current and retired players.

However, CTE is not limited to only professional sports players. According to the aforementioned Boston University study, CTE has been diagnosed in military veterans and those who played sports in high school or college and never played again.

Related: Ex-NFL Player Steve Smith Sr. Calls Partnership With CbdMD 'A Family Affair'

Johnson’s plans for his marijuana business

One of Calvin Johnson's business partners includes ex-NFL lineman Rob Sims, who also played for the Lions. The two co-own Primitive, and the pair plan to open a chain of medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

Johnson is also a member of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association's board of directors.

Johnson and Sims decided to fund the CTE research after attending the Harvard's Global Catalyst Health Summit in May 2019. The agreement to fund the research is with the International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute at Harvard University. 

The institute is studying not only potential cannabis uses for treating CTE, but also other diseases, such as cancer. 

Johnson and Sims also created a partnership with brain-performance company NESTRE as part of the deal, according to the ESPN article.

Johnson told the Detroit Free-Press that the partnership will help move cannabis into the mainstream. Despite years of legalization in states across the country, some still view the marijuana industry with a skeptical eye, Johnson said, including his own family.

Johnson added, “But when you all of a sudden add that we have a partnership with Harvard because we’re trying to find the best medicine, that changes a lot of minds.”

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