Rob Gronkowski is amazed that Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel has a massive theatre in it. “Wow, man, we can watch games in here,” he says, grinning widely, turning to his partner-in-crime for the day, Perry Antelman, the CEO of Abacus Health Products Inc, a Toronto-based CBD company.
“What was that other hotel we went to in New York? That was amazing. Kind of like this. This is the Canadian version of that hotel,” he tells Antelman, who chuckles and nods in agreement.
Until his abrupt retirement in March 2019, Gronkowski, or Gronk as he’s more affectionately known, was widely regarded as the best tight end in the NFL and perhaps one of the most enthusiastic, fun-loving players the league has ever seen.
Post-retirement, Gronk is bringing that trademark enthusiasm to his new role as a pitchman for CBDMEDIC, the over-the-counter topical CBD cream from Abacus Health that he has credited as a one-stop solution to all his chronic pain issues.
“I threw it on my toes and I swear, it took away the pain I was having. After about five to six hours it wore off a little bit, but I threw it on again. It was wonderful,” he told the Post, detailing a toe injury this past summer that got him on the CBD bandwagon.
“I just threw some on right now. I love to loosen up my hips. I want to be able to move, I want to be able to kick,” he added.
To date, there is no clear scientific evidence that CBD can cure, or even temporarily relieve chronic pain although there are plenty of anecdotal accounts touting its apparent wonder-drug qualities. The closest link between CBD and pain relief was a recent study by the European Journal of Pain, using an animal model, that showed CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis.
“More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims of CBD proponents about pain control,” the study concluded.
But Gronkowski — armed with research provided by Antelman in the lead up to signing a lucrative five-year partnership with Abacus Health to promote its products and develop a line of his own products — is firmly convinced of CBD’s potential in the pain relief area.
“There’s a lot of science and research that Perry showed me. That’s what made me believe it. That’s a big factor in representing it too, and advocating (for it),” he said.
Gronkowski towers over Antelman, greeting him with a warm hug, and it’s clear they’re comfortable with eachother. Gronk’s father and Antelman had a mutual friend, and the rest was history, they say.
The former NFL player sparked speculation on his return to the league at a recent press conference where he said that he would like to have the “option to get back into the game,” but wouldn’t be able to if he was banned for using CBD.
There is no specific policy in the NFL regarding CBD, but the league does not permit the use of any kind of marijuana-derived product.
The three-time Super Bowl winner left the NFL after nine seasons with the Patriots at just 29, due to chronic pain and injuries that he later said was taking a toll on his mental health.
He predicts the NFL, which has come under fire for player safety issues such as concussions, will come around and allow the use of CBD.
“I think it’s on pace to be allowed and I think it will help out players in the long-term,” Gronkowski said.
Hours later, Gronkowski would present to a crowd of approximately 50 investors in a sleek Shangri-La ballroom waxing lyrical about how CBDMEDIC changed his life.
Abacus Health went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange last February, months after a slew of other CBD companies listed in Toronto, eager to cash in on the “green rush” of weed investors in the aftermath of Canada legalizing cannabis for recreational consumption.
But the CBD supplements market has rapidly evolved into a highly saturated one, and the company has seen its stock lose 40 per cent of its value over the last nine months.
It’s my role to educate people on CBD, because I know the research, I know it works
If Gronk’s endorsement of CBDMEDIC was Antelman’s way of distinguishing his company from the rest of the pack, the excitement was short-lived amongst investors — its stock price saw a slight boost in late August when the deal was announced, but has slid back down since.
Gronkowski, for his part, received 302,835 shares in the company at a healthy US$15 per share in exchange for convincing potential investors of the efficacy of this particular brand. The company’s stock has been hovering at the $6 to $7 mark since late August, when the partnership was announced, a sharp contrast from the April 2019 high of almost $18.
The bulk of Abacus Health’s revenue comes from purchase orders with retail and pharmaceutical chains across the U.S. where CBDMEDIC can be purchased as an over-the-counter supplement. But in its latest quarter ending June 30, 2019, Abacus Health posted a loss of US$3.5 million — it had posted a gain of US$0.6 million the year prior.
Still, Antelman is convinced that Gronk’s endorsement, and his ties to the NFL, will help turn CBDMEDIC into the go-to product for anyone suffering from pain. “We’ve been blessed. He’s authentic. You know it’s funny because we had kind of thought in the past … you know who experiences pain? Pro-athletes. No one knows pain like Rob.”
Gronkowski, excelling in his role as America’s latest CBD evangelist, vehemently agrees. “As you know, because of my NFL career for nine years, I’m out there in the public. It’s my role to educate people on CBD, because I know the research, I know it works.”