Former Lions Calvin Johnson, Rob Sims believe in the science, potential of cannabis industry – ESPN

WEBBERVILLE, Mich. — Calvin Johnson walks into the brightly lit, orange-hued Flower Room 1 and begins to get excited. In front of him are 180 marijuana plants, all lined up in rows of three or four, broken down in identical, segmented trays for optimal growth.

Clad in a mask, black scrubs and Crocs, the retired Detroit Lions receiver walks up and down the aisles, inspecting each plant, looking at the varied flowers. Johnson, who was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend, looks a little different than he did as an NFL player. He’s thinner with strands of gray in the front of his grown-out hair.

Standing alongside his current business partner, former offensive guard Rob Sims, Johnson examines the plants in one of six flower rooms, pleased with the progress.

“Get better every run,” Johnson said, particularly happy with the density in each of the flowers he’s observing. “Nice little jungle in there.”

“Keeps getting better,” Sims replied.

This had been the hope all along, what they had been working for the past two years after deciding to enter the cannabis industry. So far, 15 states plus Washington, D.C., have fully legalized cannabis, according to, while many others have either approved its medicinal use or decriminalized usage of the drug.

Johnson and Sims went from a life in football, in which so much was dictated and provided, to the world of a startup, building everything from scratch. They created Primitiv, a cannabis company they hope will improve quality of life for those in pain, eliminate some of the negative connotations around marijuana and, of course, make money in their second career.

“Our vision is we’re trying to change the stigma around cannabis,” Sims said. “We don’t call it bud. We call it medicine.”

FIVE TO SIX DAYS a week, Sims and Johnson drive from their suburban Detroit homes to Primitiv’s cultivation facility in Webberville, Michigan, to manage their 15-person team, inspect their product and make sure their business is flowing toward the level of production they have anticipated.

Combined, they’ve made more than $130 million in their NFL careers. They don’t have to work. They want to work. This has become their profession, investing “easily” more than $1 million in building their company.

“This is our life’s work at this point,” Sims said. “We’ve put a lot into this.”

Johnson and Sims didn’t plan to start here. Johnson first tried marijuana recreationally in college at Georgia Tech. By the middle of his NFL career, he figured out the medicinal benefits it provided.

By the end of his career, Johnson used cannabis after every game and sometimes during the week to help lessen the “daily drag to get up out of bed in the morning, just really inflammation at the end of the day.” It became part of his weekly regimen to get himself back to being able to play the following Sunday.

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