Former Detroit Lions football players Calvin Johnson and Robert Sims are expanding their emerging cannabis enterprise into the field of medicine.

The pair announced an agreement Thursday with the International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute at Harvard University, which is researching the benefits of medical marijuana and looking at the best ways to deliver cannabis-based medicines to cancer cells in patients.

The partnership, which also will look at the benefits of treating Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head, with cannabis will help normalize the cannabis industry, Johnson said.

“With the stigma associated with this industry, a lot of my family, including my mother, looked at me like ‘Have you lost your mind?’ ” he said during the Cannabis Capital Conference in Detroit, sponsored by the financial news website Benzinga. “But when you all of a sudden add that we have a partnership with Harvard because we’re trying to find the best medicine, that changes a lot of minds.”

The institute was launched in May with a goal of researching and increasing access to medicinal plants for global health. It came about after the World Health Organization reported that up to 80% of the world’s population uses medicinal plants as remedies for a variety of illnesses.