Ejiro Ederaine, the former Fresno State linebacker turned cannabis entrepreneur, has been known to get on a roll. Any conversation is capable of careening in any direction at any time, but it’s always honest, engaging, thought-provoking.
Most often, it’s a blast, and toward the end of an extended riff on his chosen career path he asks point-blank a question he obviously knows is coming.
“Did I smoke when I was at Fresno State?” he says.
“Yeah, I smoked when I was at Fresno State. I didn’t really think it was a big deal at all.”
It’s not rhetorical, asked and answered more to drive a point home than play to any dramatic effect.
Ederaine graduated from Fresno State with a degree in criminology.
He played prominent roles on teams that won Mountain West Conference championships in 2012 and ‘13, and in ‘15 was one of the most productive players in the nation.
Ederaine, in his senior season, was third in the conference with 9.0 sacks and with 16.5 tackles for loss. He started the final 36 games of his career and finished with 46.5 TFLs, ranking second in Mountain West history.
He was a good player – at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds Ederaine had an uncanny knack for wreaking havoc on opposing offenses, a weird ability to bend or burst his way past blocks and get to a quarterback or an opposing ball carrier.
And, yes, he smoked some marijuana while doing all of it.
Football in the past, pot in the future
Three years after his football career ended in camp with the NFL Washington Redskins, his shoulders fairly well shot after two surgeries, Ederaine is trying to chip away at any stigma attached to the medicinal or recreational use of cannabis while finding his way in a blossoming industry.
Of his use while at Fresno State, he said, “I know it was against the rules, so I was never big on it. I never was open and out with it.
“But I never had a problem with cannabis. I never got in trouble with a drug test. I got my degree. You saw what I did on the field. So when people say cannabis is this or that, I just think they haven’t researched it and applied it.
“It never stopped me from getting my responsibilities done and accomplishing the goals that I set for myself at Fresno State. I couldn’t have had a better career.”
Ederaine these days has a new career, spinning off Anime-style “JroMan” comic books that are a combination of cannabis culture and pop culture, a novel entry into the market that analysts project could be worth close to $50 billion by 2025. The third in Ederaine’s comic book series previewed June 1 at the Secret Sesh, a cannabis festival in Adelanto.
“I love the concept of engaging people through media and I think comics are an awesome way to do that,” said DeJanae Evins, a cannabis educator and co-founder of High Tide Tours, a Los Angeles-based marijuana and wellness company. “Whatever your strength is in any other industry, bring that to cannabis because we need it and also because education is so critical to creating the type of industry that we want to see.”
Ederaine also has a clothing line featuring T-shirts, caps and stash bags. But at the heart of his new venture are the comic books.
“It’s fun,” Ederaine said. “It’s something I really enjoy. I look at stuff differently, I guess; maybe from Saturday cartoons. I always watched my Saturday cartoons and was always trying to be stuff. Before I played football, I was that kid who played with a play sword in the backyard. Me and my friends, we’d always have fun with our imaginations.
“Once I was done playing ball, I was like, ‘All right, I don’t want to play any more. What am I going to do?’ Those creative embers just kind of sparked and caught fire.”
Ederaine develops and writes the stories in the “JroMan” series, which is illustrated by a South Carolina-based artist, Johnathan Edwards.
Ederaine tracked Edwards down on Instagram. Edwards, just out of art school, checked out a script that Ederaine sent him.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Edwards said. “It was a new idea and then I story-boarded the book a little bit and we just went from there.
“I like the committed tone to it. … And it’s fun, too.”
“We’re on our third book, so it worked out pretty good,” Ederaine said.
Where can it go? Edwards said he could see “JroMan” as an animated series online or on television. But it could grow or go in any number of directions in the industry as more and more states legalize the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis and it gains greater acceptance.
NCAA, Fresno State relaxing rules
That growing acceptance is happening at many university athletic programs, including Fresno State, that have softened penalties for recreational drug use. The NCAA in 2014 changed the penalty for a positive test for street drugs including marijuana at its championship events to half a season from a full season.
At Fresno State, incoming student-athletes submit to a drug test. A first positive without previous failed tests results in a drug and alcohol assessment and education. A second positive results in suspension for 20% of total contests that season. A third positive results in permanent dismissal from the team and the loss of scholarship aid.
Before 2014, a first positive also included suspension for 10% of contests.
But many schools have much lighter penalties for marijuana use, and some differentiate between recreational and performance-enhancing drugs.
“People paint a picture in their head – young, stoners, whatever. But the cannabis community is so diverse, so encompassing. I’m going to be talking about a lot of different topics,” Ederaine said. “Things spill over, so concepts of stigma and ignorance and things like that, they relate to a lot of different areas. Cannabis is where I want to start, but I want to hit a lot of different groups.
“They say times are changing, so we’ll see.”