New Jersey resident and former New York Jets defensive end Marvin Washington is the host of The 5th Quarter, a show about cannabis premiering on AppleTV on Nov. 25.
Kerri Accardi, creator and producer of Cannected.TV and Washington-based 420Media Agency, which has New Jersey roots and a Shore-based partner, tapped the ex-player as the host of The 5th Quarter after meeting him at a cannabis convention and getting to know his advocacy work. Washington is one of the first professional athletes to have associated their name with cannabis advocacy, years before the National Football League stopped suspending and fining players for having the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol in their system.
“I was at a celebrity golf tournament and these guys approached me talking about THC and chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 2014, and how [cannabinoids] can protect the brain in the relationship to concussions. That piqued my interest,” he said. “At the time, the NFL concussion lawsuits … Dave Duerson had committed suicide within the last 18 months because of CTE. They told me about the patent they had with the [National Institute of Health] about concussions, and I did a deep dive into [researching cannabis] and I became a proponent of it. The research is there [to] learn about the things cannabis can do, particularly with athletic rest, recovery and performance,” Washington said.
The U.S. government was granted Patent No. 6630507 in 2003 on cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. In 2016, Ohio became the first state in the country to approve medical cannabis to treat CTE.
Publicly, professional athletes including former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Eben Britton and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson have credited cannabinoids for assisting in physical recovery after games. Washington shared that cannabinoids combat soreness post-workout and post-injury. He had eight surgeries throughout his career and noted that while medicating with cannabis was against the rules, opioids were widely available.
“There is pressure to be available, and you can’t be available if you’re hurt. The best asset you have is availability. Everyone gets hurt. How can you play through the injury? If you have a broken whatever or a pulled something, and it’s acute, there’s a place for the opiates. But there’s not a place for them over a season of four to six months,” Washington said.
On the first episode of The 5th Quarter – the name is a play on the idea of what happens when the game’s over – Washington interviews Eddie Lee “Boo” Williams, a former New Orleans Saints tight end, who discusses how cannabis helped him with suicidal ideation. Over four episodes, he interviews nurses, doctors, attorneys, and cannabis moms and cannabis kids—people who report that their lives have been improved by cannabis, even in areas where it remains illegal.
The 5th Quarter was a long time coming. The first episode was shot in 2016, and parts of the season were shot until 2019. Accardi blames the delay on a fallen-through deal with CBS, which she said 420Media had an arrangemenet with to produce several cannabis specials.
“When we were filming with CBS, I always knew I wanted to launch our own channel. We had all intentions of airing a lot sooner than now, but a week after the  election, CBS ended up reneging on that deal,” she said.
In 2018 a commercial for another 420Media cannabis special ran in a handful of western states and in 2019 the same commercial aired during the Super Bowl in the U.S. Virgin Islands. When COVID-19 put the world at a standstill in 2020, Accardi said “it was brought to my attention that we didn’t need to build our own network, there were turnkey options, so I went down that path. We already have six years of content filmed, much more than Marv’s series.”
Several states have come on board for both medical and adult use cannabis legalization since the first season of The 5th Quarter was shot. The cannabis landscape looks different in New Jersey and beyond. But the content, said Clifton-native Accardi, is evergreen.
“It’s personal, it’s your story. We get older, but our stories don’t change. The 5th Quarter, I believe it’s going to empower people, to open their eyes to understanding that cannabis is medicine, that we have an endocannabinoid system that helps us heal pain, nausea,” she said. “We’re educating through entertainment. I come from a huge family and TV is what they watch. The point with [including] the athletes, is how do we reach each person? If an athlete’s saying it, they’re going to reach a whole different demographic than I would. And nurses, they do, too. And moms and children? They’re reaching a different one. It’s about how you connect with people to educate them.”
Since production of the first season wrapped, Washington has been a fierce advocate in the cannabis industry both in the state and around the country. He was the lead plaintiff against the Department of Justice, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Southern District of New York, alongside fellow plaintiffs two children and a military veteran who used medical cannabis to treat chronic conditions, in a case challenging the constitutionality of cannabis criminalization as a Schedule 1 drug.
The case was filed in 2017 and went on through 2020.
“We went all the way to trying to get it heard at the Supreme Court,” Washington said. “We were the first case to have a district court say that marijuana has medical benefits, which the government says it doesn’t … we took it as far as we could take it. I think we made a difference. When everyone got in [on the case], it was ‘if,’ and now it’s ‘when’ as far as federal legalization of cannabis.”
Accardi, Washington, and the rest of the team are currently in pre-production for season two. Season one premieres at 4:20 p.m. on Nov. 25 on AppleTV, and will be available on ROKU, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
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