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The View From On High

San Diego native, ex-NFL star, and current legal cannabis business owner Ricky Williams discusses his new one-hitter, weed’s place in local culture, and leaving football
Ricky Williams Cannabis Business, hero

Ricky Williams Cannabis Business, hero

Errick “Ricky” Miron—best known to the world as the Heisman-winning former-NFL superstar Ricky Williams—has come a long way from his childhood in the San Carlos area of San Diego, where he went to Patrick Henry High.

The modern-day renaissance man has been out of pro football for ten years and lives closer to L.A. now. He’s got a cannabis company called Highsman, does readings for an astrology app called LILA (he’s a Gemini sun), and studies traditional Chinese medicine. Earlier this year, he changed his legal last name to Miron, his wife’s surname. It’s tempting to say Williams is an entirely different person at age 45 than he was during his NFL days, but it feels much more accurate to say he’s more himself now than ever.

“Every time I talk about this, and I do it a lot, it’s always so cathartic,” Williams says about his cannabis use. Williams is best known for choosing weed over the NFL, but the general understanding of his decision misses the point. Williams’ dedication to weed is not just about getting high—not by a long shot. For him, it’s spiritual. Williams says he first smoked weed during his senior year at the University of Texas after getting dumped. A friend passed him a joint, suggesting it might help. While it didn’t cause him to win the Heisman, Williams does believe cannabis got him “in the right mind frame” to perform at such a high level that, y’know, it just kinda happened. He explains that he suffers from anxiety, among other-related conditions, and weed helps.

“I remember coming home after practicing, smoking, and reflecting on my day and thinking, ‘Wow, I really want to be a better person,'” Williams says. The internal chorus became too loud to ignore.

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Just One HitHIGHSMAN and Williams recently partnered with VESSEL, a Carlsbad-based, design-forward cannabis accessory and hardware company, to brand its Helix one-hitter. Vessel makes sleek, masculine-silhouetted vapes and accessories, like a life-changing almost-bionic lighter that allows people to spark upside-down (those familiar with the mechanics of bong smoking will understand) and a Brutalist-inspired concrete ashtray that is part functional, part conversation piece.The HIGHSMAN X HELIX one-hitter is painted with Highsman’s cartoonish varsity letter “H” logo. Its insides look like dried rotini pasta in metal form, which increases airflow length by 2.5x, exponentially cooling the air and allowing for better, more portable hits. It’s a tool for functional stoners—like Williams always has been; something quick, stylish, and on the go.

Technically, Williams left the NFL twice. First, involuntarily in 2004 after testing positive for cannabis while playing for the Miami Dolphins. After returning to play for the Baltimore Ravens, he left again in 2012, this time of his own volition. At the time, he declined to give a reason. He retired and started down another path, knowing he was potentially giving up fame and fortune, which was kind of the point. He traveled the world, famously dropping off the grid, which inspired an Esquire journalist to track him down in Australia, where he was found soul searching, taking a load off, and smoking weed.

As I sit across from him today, a broad smile crosses his face every time I bring up Hazes, his current favorite cannabis type. He seems pretty content in his choices. While I can’t claim to know his bank account, things seem to be going a-okay.

Not everyone gets it. Williams recalls meeting with the NFL’s psychiatrists, who ran the drug program he was required to attend because of his infractions. It was clear that what he saw as a considerable enhancement in his life only confounded others. “They said, ‘We thought you were just some pothead surfer from California. We didn’t realize that there was something more going on—it’s a travesty,'” he remembers them saying. “I was told I was going to get scrambled eggs for brains or that [cannabis] was an escape. But instead, I found that when I smoked, I was more in touch with myself, with how I was feeling. I learned from that.”

But his education continues. Recently, Williams completed the Ganjier program, a new certification for anointing sommeliers of weed. He learned about terroir, a French term that claims plants, (like wine grapes, or cannabis) exhibit different characteristics based on where they’re grown. “I think if it applied to humans, there would be terroir of growing up in San Diego, right? The smell of cannabis in the air, that vibe.”

“Are you saying that weed is part of the cultural terroir of San Diego?” I ask.

Williams smiles as big as he seems able. “One-hundred percent.”

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By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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