Lance Johnstone on Moving From NFL to Pot-Biz Star at O.penVAPE Tourney

Earlier this month, we told you about the first annual O.penVAPE Open, a charity golf tournament scheduled to take place on Monday, September 12, and noted that former NFL players would be among those hitting the links.

One of the most intriguing participants on the schedule is Lance Johnstone, who spent eleven years in the NFL during the last half of the 1990s and the first part of the 2000s, much of it as a defensive end for the dreaded Oakland Raiders.

"I actually had some of my best games against Denver, for whatever reason," Johnstone says, laughing.

Johnstone is speaking from Jamaica, where he represents Timeless Herbal Care, a company that's working with O.penVAPE to develop medical products for the international marketplace in the island nation. THC's website stresses its focus on coming up with "groundbreaking health solutions from marijuana and hemp" to aid in the treatment of cancer, sickle cell, auto-immune diseases, diabetes and pain.

During his playing days, Johnstone became very familiar with this last condition.

"Back then, they'd give you the typical painkillers — your Vicodins, your Oxycontins," he says. "Or they'd give you a direct shot of painkiller into the muscle. Whether it was your ankles, your shoulder or whatever, they'd shoot cortisone directly into it to numb the pain."

Later, he continues, "I found out that wasn't a good idea, since you're actually still hurt, but you don't know it and can't protect it to minimize the damage. But the idea from the team side, and even from the player's side, was to get back on the field as fast as possible."

He doesn't place all the blame for this state of affairs on the franchises for which he played — the Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings. "As a young man, I probably should have done more research into what exactly I was putting in my body — although you expect a little more education from the people who are giving you things, as well."

Today, Johnstone is among the growing number of current and former NFL players who want the league to okay the use of medical cannabis for pain relief. "It's an alternative that has far fewer side effects" than opiate-based pain medication, he says.

At the same time, however, he focuses on cannabis-derived products designed for medical use — CBD-rich treatments that "are non-psychoactive and non-inflammatory," he notes.

Rather than ripping the league for its resistance to okaying such medication for player use, Johnstone says, "I understand the NFL's position and why it takes the stance it does now. They're worried about people getting high, people getting pulled over in their car. But we know the compound in this flower can be used in ways that aren't psychoactive, and that tames the argument a little bit. It takes it from the perspective of someone trying to get high to someone who's trying to get well."

These days, Johnstone is doing his best to spread this message — and he hopes to get an assist from his onetime on-field brethren.

"We need to get out there and start talking to the former players, who don't have NFL careers still hanging over their heads," he says. "It's really up to us. We need to organize and be leaders in this. That's why I've been reaching out to other guys and trying to help them learn more about this from an educational standpoint."

In his view, the successful use of medical marijuana in treating children furthers this message.

"A lot of legislation around the country took off because people saw how it helped kids with epilepsy have fewer seizures," he points out. "So we're making sure we're bringing attention to some of these more positive things and how many people can be helped by using the plant in a more deliberate way."

And not just the cannabis plant.

"The company is working with other herbs that are indigenous to Jamaica, too, trying to find ways to help the body heal," Johnstone allows. "It's a real scientific approach, and because the environment on the island isn't as restrictive when it comes to regulations, we're starting to get some really important research done. Jamaica sees this as a way to get to the forefront of what's going on with this, and that's really an advantage right now. But I think the U.S. is going to come along."

In the meantime, Johnstone is excited to take part in the O.penVAPE Open, a fundraiser for the Flowering Hope Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization with a self-described mission to "create opportunities for patients to receive a better quality of life and peace of mind through safe access to life-changing medication."

"This is a great thing they're doing," he says of the foundation, "and I want to do whatever I can to bring attention to it so we can start having a different conversation."

The O.penVAPE Open is scheduled to get under way at 11 a.m. on Monday, September 12, at the Meridian Golf Club, 9742 South Meridian Boulevard in Englewood. Click to get more information.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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