Channel 2 Investigates

Game time high: Up to 80% of pro athletes may be using cannabis

ATLANTA — You probably have heard about a runner’s high, but many professional athletes are actually getting high before they compete.

A former Georgia Bulldog and NFL player told Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein about 80% of the guys in the league are using marijuana.

Football is known for bone crushing hits. More and more players are turning to marijuana to help relieve the pain from the physicality of the sport.

“I would probably say around 80 % of the guys in our league use cannabis,” said Tavarres King, who played for the Georgia Bulldogs and spent seven years in the NFL.


“You mentioned 80% of your teammates or guys that you know in the league were using marijuana. Were you one of them?” Klein asked King.

“100 percent,” King answered, going on the record for the first time about his marijuana use during his NFL career.

King said marijuana helped him with anxiety and focus.

“Playing with it, laser sharp. I was laser sharp, laser focused,” King said.

“So, everyone knows you with the Giants, Lambeau Field, catching a touchdown pass from Eli Manning and you were high that game?” Klein asked.

“Yeah, yeah I was,” replied King laughing.

“You did your job,” Klein said.

“Yeah, I did my job,” King said.

When his career ended due to injuries, King started working in the cannabis industry.


In 2018, he opened Rowdy Wellness, a CBD company in Atlanta, with music producer Dallas Austin.

King uses their CBD products, which fight inflammation, daily.

He also is CEO of Suite 420 Access, a private finance company based in Denver that funds minority-owned cannabis businesses.

“It became a medicine for me, and it really changed my life,” said Jeffrey Barnett, co-founder of Suite 420 Access.

He is a firm believer in the benefits of CBD.

“My 82-year-old father who’s never touched marijuana in his life is using daily now in the form of CBD on his joints,” Barnett said.

It may sound surprising, but it’s common.

“Seniors are the fastest growing demographic of people who are using cannabis, and they’re using in particularly for exercise,” said Josiah Hesse, a Denver-based journalist.

Hesse wrote “Runner’s High,” a book about mixing cannabis and exercise after he started taking edibles when he ran.

“It made it a lot more fun. It made it easier,” Hesse said.

He said cannabis is popular in the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA.

“According to my sources, anywhere from 60% to 80% of professional athletes are using cannabis currently,” Hesse said.

Players use cannabis for pain relief, to get in the zone and for recovery, but there are downsides.

“Lethargy. You get a loss of coordination, you get paranoia, you get anxiety,” Hesse said.

He said dosing is important and recommended starting low.

There is some research on cannabis and exercise. Hesse took part in a study at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2020.

In 2019, researchers there found 80% of cannabis users mix weed while working out. That contradicts the lazy stoner stereotype.

“So this idea of the Jeff Spicoli, Cheech and Chong stoner that we’ve had for so long just isn’t the case,” Hesse said.

Recreational cannabis is not legal in Georgia, but CBD is.

NFL rules ban the use of CBD and marijuana. But the NFL just announced it is awarding $1 million to researchers to study cannabinoids’ effects on pain and concussions.

Professional athletes are often tested for drugs, but both King and Hesse said there are ways around it.

Sometimes players get a heads up beforehand and stop using or athletes get someone else’s urine.