Former NFL player Kyle Turley says cannabis ‘saved’ him, and he thinks it can help others

MORENO VALLEY, Calif. — With scientists around the world working overtime to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley said something already exists to help combat the pandemic.

“That’s something cannabis has a way to address,” Turley told USA  TODAY Sports, referring to what’s more commonly known as marijuana. “The science behind this is real.”

Turley, who said he’s been smoking marijuana for 20 years and credits it with saving his life, said cannabis boosts the immune system and “at a certain level it should resolve those viruses.

“What are we going to do here?” he added. “Are we going to go into quarantine? Or are we going to live? And if you choose cannabis, I’m here to tell you that you’re going to live.”

A Reuters story this past week addressed the issue of whether cannabis can impact coronavirus, specifically social media claims that it can kill the virus (there is no evidence of that). Reuters also referenced the American Lung Association position that smoking marijuana can damage the lungs and possibly affect immune systems and their ability to fight diseases. 

The story does say that marijuana has proved beneficial in situations (against rare forms of epilepsy, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, issues associated with HIV/AIDs for example) though not the effects seen in coronavirus cases. 

According to data from Johns Hopkins, more than 13,400 have died from coronavirus across the world as of Sunday morning.

Turley, 44, was standing in Shango, a cannabis dispensary about 60 miles east of Los Angeles in which Turley is part owner. He pulled out his phone and showed video of what he said were about 200 people lined up for the store’s grand opening March 13.

Turley, who played high school football in Moreno Valley and has moved back to the area, was instrumental in getting a license for the cannabis store, said Brandon Rexroad, Turley’s business partner and a multi-state operator in the cannabis industry.

Kyle Turley tours his cannabis dispensary, Shango. He credits cannabis with saving his life.

“With his longtime history of living in Moreno Valley, obviously everybody knows Kyle,” Rexroad said. “He’s one of the most renowned athletes to come out of Moreno Valley, so that lends a lot of credibility with the city and the council.”

Turley and Rexroad, who said they met about five years ago through a mutual friend, also sell a line of CBD called Neuro XPF, which will be available for purchase at Shango even during the stay-at-home order in California that’s scheduled to end April 19. Cannabis stores have been deemed essential, and as Turley tells it, marijuana has been essential to his survival.

He said it has cured him of vertigo, seizures, light sensitivity, pain and numbness in the feet and uncontrollable rage. Having moved back to Southern California with his family about five years ago, Turley said the evidence of his transformation can be found in his house.

“This is the first house I’ve ever lived in, now for five years, where I’ve not broke a door off a hinge, put a hole in the wall, thrown dishes and plates and lost my mind,” he said.

Kyle Turley speaks about his cannabis dispensary, Shango.

A first-team All-Pro in 2000, Turley played in the NFL for nine seasons, including stints with the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. He blames what ailed him on CTE, a neurodegenerative disorder associated with repetitive head impacts, and the opioids NFL team doctors gave him to treat the symptoms.

Turley said several years ago he contemplated jumping out of the third story of his family’s house before he decided he needed to give up pharmaceuticals, which include “psych meds.”

“At the end of the day, I trust God,’’ he said. “I begged for my life. When you’re addicted to opioids, you get to that point. And that’s not a fun place.’’

Turley said cannabis also has cured his wife, Stacey, of skin cancer. And he said the daily use of CBD — an extract of cannabis without THC, the psychoactive compound that creates the “high” — have boosted the immune systems of his two children, ages 9 and 11.

“It’s resolved my daughter’s sleeping disorder, my son’s attention span, hers as well,’’ Turley said. “And the doctors continue to tell us they’re the healthiest kids they’ve ever seen and they refuse to give them flu shots, refuse, because their immune systems are so strong.”

Former NFL player Kyle Turley poses for a portrait inside his cannabis dispensary, Shango, that he recently opened in the Moreno Valley.

During the interview and tour of the store, he grew impassioned when talking about his efforts to make cannabis available to NFL veterans. He said he wishes he could have shared his cannabis testimony with Junior Seau, the Hall of Fame linebacker who committed suicide 2012.

“Guys aren’t choosing bullets over the Hall of Fame anymore,’’ Turley said. “That’s not happening. And that’s because of cannabis.’’

At the suggestion of a teammate, Turley said he tried marijuana during his second NFL season in 1999, when he played for the Saints.

“He knew I was struggling,’’ Turley said. “That was the first night that year that I got true sleep.’’

But until six years ago, Turley said, he relied mostly on pharmaceuticals to deal with his litany of issues. His quest for an alternative solution led to regular trips to Las Vegas, where he found a preferred strain of cannabis.

Now he can stop by his own store to get his favorite cannabis, which Turley said he smokes every morning after a cup of coffee.

“Because I chose cannabis as an alternative and to understand it the way I have, it saved my life,’’ he said. “It kept my family together. I have my wife. I have my kids. I have an amazing business partner and an amazing shop to craft this conversation into the light and bring it to the people the way it deserves.’’