Former Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe owns a 5 percent share in one of the 144 companies that have applied to grow medical marijuana in Maryland. (Bill O'Leary, The Washington Post)

This former Raven wants the NFL to back medical pot — and he wants to grow it

Lineman Eugene Monroe owns a 5 percent share in Green Thumb Industries, one of 144 companies seeking a license to grow medical marijuana in Maryland; other athletes are seeking licenses, too

Former Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe delighted marijuana advocates and irked the National Football League in March when he became an outspoken advocate of medical pot.

In a steady stream of media interviews, the imposing 29-year-old bemoaned the frequent injuries that come with tackling 300-pound men for a living, and he laid into the NFL for what he called an overreliance on opiates in treating chronic pain. He publicly pressured the league to recognize marijuana as a viable painkiller and announced that he was donating $80,000 to medical-marijuana research.

What Monroe did not say was that he had a direct financial stake in seeing the drug go mainstream.

Documents obtained by The Washington Post from the state of Maryland show that Monroe has a share worth at least 5 percent in Green Thumb Industries (GTI), one of 144 companies seeking a license to grow medical marijuana in Maryland.

Monroe declined to say how much money he has invested in GTI Maryland, the local outpost of the company that operates massive grow houses in Illinois and has licenses in Nevada. He agreed to invest in August and says he has no plans to invest in other marijuana companies.

“Right now, I’ve made a decision to invest with GTI, and I guess that’s all I’ll talk about right now,” Monroe said in an interview. He described the investment as a vehicle to help make medical pot commercially viable.

“People across our country, and especially athletes, need access to medical cannabis,” Monroe said. “I think my investment in GTI represents my commitment to helping make this possible for people.”

The Ravens organization may see it somewhat differently. Earlier this month, the team released Monroe from his $37.5 million contract. He had been injured and unable to play for the better part of two years, despite collecting the highest base salary of any player on the team. An article posted on the team’s website appeared to chide Monroe’s advocacy efforts.

“Monroe had surgery to repair a torn labrum (shoulder) this offseason, and used the time off to become the first active NFL player to openly campaign for the use of medical marijuana,” the article said. “The Ravens did not rally behind his cause.”

Neither the team nor the NFL Players Association responded to requests for comment. Monroe says he never told the Ravens about his investment with GTI.

“I don’t consult with the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens on any of my decisions to invest in any company,” he said, “and I don’t see any reason why my advocacy for medical cannabis would impact my playing career with the Ravens.”

GTI chief executive Pete Kadens said the company never asked Monroe to be a public advocate for medical pot. Kadens recalled being surprised when the player’s name started popping up in news reports.

“[Monroe] said to me, ‘I believe this. It’s part of me, it’s part of my core, and I just can’t care what the ramifications are at this point. I have to do this,’ ” Kadens said.

There are other athletes among the hundreds of individuals teaming up to seek licenses to grow medical marijuana in Maryland.

Real estate executive Kevin Gibbs, a District of Columbia native who played baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees, is an investor in prospective grower Peak Harvest Health. Darryl Hill, who is heading up a team of investors applying as Tilstar LLC, was recognized by the Maryland legislature for being the first African American to play football at the University of Maryland. And Dennis DuVal, a former Syracuse, New York, police chief who is a principal at Citiva Maryland, had a brief stint with the Washington Bullets in the 1970s.