Gronk running new pattern — hawking CBD

Former Pats star goes from beer chugger to medicine man

LOOKING TO Rob Gronkoswki for well-considered medical advice feels a bit like turning to Curt Schilling for tips on video game startups. They both excelled as pro athletes, but it’s not clear why anyone should think their gifts on the field translate to brilliant insight in other endeavors.

But no matter.

Gronk, the devil-may-care party boy who famously spiked a Bud Light while riding in a mid-day Super Bowl parade, emerged yesterday as a modern-day Marcus Welby, here to heal with sober-minded counsel on maladies from A to Z.

The former Pats tight end will now work as chief pitchman for Abacus Health Products, which makes a line of lotions, creams, and ointments containing CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is a non-intoxicating ingredient in cannabis and hemp plants, now being touted as the cure for everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

Gronkowski, who suffered from an endless string of injuries during his career and endured nine surgeries, says he first tried CBD a couple of months ago at his father’s urging. “I am pain free, and that is a big deal,” he said at yesterday’s announcement, sporting a white t-shirt featuring Abacus’s “CBDMEDIC” logo.

The hype around CBD is only growing. The evidence for its benefits, on the other hand, lags far behind.

There is now clear evidence of CBD’s benefit in reducing seizures among children with certain forms of epilepsy. Apart from that very specific use, however, proof of any health benefits is elusive.

“When I tell [people] we don’t have very much evidence in people, they’re actually surprised,” says Ziva Cooper, director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative. “There’s actually very little out there to hang our hats on.”

Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Cambridge physician who has a cannabis-focused medical practice, tells the Globe the lotions Gronkowksi will promote have no medical effect. “To boil it down, no, topical CBD doesn’t work,” he says.

CBD’s legal status is also murky. Hemp-derived CBD was legalized federally as part of a 2018 farm bill, but apart from its use for childhood epilepsy, the FDA has not approved otherwise selling CBD as a dietary supplement or medication.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

But that’s not getting in the way of the billions of dollars companies see in future CBD sales. Lots of celebrities are now hawking CBD, but the Globe says Gronk’s entry “could signal a key moment in the drug’s evolving acceptance among sports leagues and consumers.”

Steve Fox, an adviser to the Cannabis Trade Federation, inexplicably tells the paper Gronkowski’s involvement is “a step toward greater knowledge about the benefits of the substance.”

“It makes a difference when athletes get involved, given the fact that they generally care about what they put in their bodies,” Fox says. If he could say that with a straight face, he’s worth whatever the trade organization is paying him.