Former NFL linebacker Reggie Williams has joined the growing list of former pro-athletes who are entering the cannabis business. Last March, Williams announced that he would be teaming up with Pure Ratios to spread the word about the medicinal benefits of cannabis, which helped him keep the leg that played 14 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Williams' excruciating leg injury - which would require 24 surgeries over the years and nearly resulted in amputation - began where you'd least expect: with a root canal. During the procedure, Williams' dentist gave him a dental implant containing silver, which developed an infection that migrated down to his leg, eating away three inched of his femur "like termites."

"It's amazing how some of the most mundane things can become major catastrophes," Williams told Civilized while speaking on behalf of Pure Ratios at the 420 Games in Los Angeles. While undergoing treatment for his leg, Williams decided against treating the pain with opioids that could lead to a lifetime of drug addiction.

"I didn't want to go from all those surgeries to being an addict for the rest of my life in order to stay sane" while dealing with chronic pain. So he tried cannabis, which not only helped managed his discomfort, but helped him regain mobility in the leg - despite the prognosis that he might never walk on it again due to muscle atrophy. But by managing the pain, he was able to exercise and keep those muscles healthy

Williams found the Pure Ratio CBD patch particularly useful because he could apply it directly to the effected area for quick relief. With the patch, he's been able to maintain an active lifestyle - especially while traveling by plane, where the compression from changes in altitude wreak havoc on the layers of scar tissue in his leg. Since he can't smoke or vape in the cabin, he puts on the patch instead.

"You can put a patch on and it doesn't disturb any of your fellow passengers. And within 15-20 minutes, the discomfort is gone."

Williams added that the patch and other medicinal cannabis products could help current NFL players, who often have to play through pain.

"Pain is something that unfortunately becomes a badge of honor as an NFL player," he said. "In my days, it was nothing to break your fingers and not even come out of the game. And there were a number of times that you would get a stinger and get up to go back to the huddle instead of the sideline to let a doctor check you out."

Right now, the NFL bans medical marijuana. But players have plenty of access to opioids that are fuelling the epidemic of drug overdoses in America. And on top of being addictive and potentially lethal, Williams said that sometimes those opioids don't work when you need them most.

"The issue now is the use of Toradol as an injectable pain reliever that some players take before taking the field. But there was one surgery I had where Toradol didn't work. And you're in the kind of excruciating pain that you wouldn't want to wish on anyone. And you've got to wait for another 20 minutes for another injection. There's nothing you can do. You have to just stare into the face of pain. " 

So he gritted his teeth and meditated on William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus - especially these lines:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

"Sometimes to be the master of your fate, it helps to have a patch to push you along," Williams told Civilized. "And this has been the great discovery and the opportunity to bring medicinal cannabis into the mainstream as the best alternative for pain."

That's why he's working with Pure Ratios to tackle stigmas surrounding cannabis use so that more patients have access to a healthier, more natural medicine than opioids. 

"That's why I'm involved now - to take the stigma off of a natural medicine. Because there needs to be other options - not just for NFL players but for all of us."