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About Willie Nelson and His Contribution to Cannabis Culture

Chane Leigh

by Chane Leigh

June 25, 2021 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
About Willie Nelson and His Contribution to Cannabis Culture

Willie Nelson, a most impressive man, who has led an inspiring and eclectic music career including the release of over 350 songs ranging from country, jazz, and folk to pop and R&B. The Songwriters Hall of Fame explained that he even pioneered the ‘outlaw’ country movement and that he grew up working alongside migrant and tenant farmers in Central Texas farmland. After having his first joint in 1954, he announced that breathing problems led to his last “puff” in 2019, according to USA Today. In honor of this 88-year-old musical icon, let’s have a look at his relationship with the cannabis community. 

In honor of Willie Nelson’s 88th birthday, he decided to celebrate by delivering the keynote for his new cannabis conference address at 4:20 pm. Despite being 88 years old, with “abused” lungs from many years of smoking (according to himself), he has become quite a successful cannabis entrepreneur over the last couple of years. This conference took place over three days and consisted of presentations and panel discussions “covering everything from legislative policy to glaring inequities within the cannabis industry”. 

Austin360 explains that there was a session titled “County & Cannabis: A Contextual Retrospective of Willie Nelson’s Weed History”. Among the panel attending the conference was Willie’s longtime friend, documentary filmmaker, and author, Turk Pipkin. Turk stated that he and Willie attempted to sneak up to the roof of the Texas governor’s mansion to smoke cannabis, or herb as he called it. Austin360 provided some insight into the session by having started fun facts about Willie Nelson’s relationship with cannabis and this is what they have to say. 

Willie Nelson’s First Encounter With Cannabis

In 1954, according to Willie’s autobiography, his friend and fellow musician, Fred Lockwood, handed him a joint and told him to “get high and be somebody”. However, his first time was not what one might typically experience from smoking cannabis due to the fact that he didn’t inhale enough to feel it. Despite that, Fred continued to smoke with Willie on occasion thereafter until Willie decided that cannabis was going to be his exclusive drug of choice in 1978.  The phrase, “get high and be somebody” had been the slogan for jazz musicians in Harlem during the 1930s. 

His Strong Beliefs

Willie’s cannabis use “was treated as a joke” with talk show hosts, such as Johnny Carson, reducing his love for the herb to a “Cheech and Chong punchline”. However, Willie “always felt this debt to the discovery of the herb, you know, and it changed his life” since he was “by all accounts an unpleasant drunk”- referring to Willie’s heavy whiskey drinking days. Willie strongly believed in the medical and therapeutic potential of the plant and stated that he “wouldn’t be alive”, that it saved his life, and that he “wouldn’t have lived 85 (now 88) years” if he’d “kept drinking and smoking like” he did when he was 30, 40 years old. Turk contributed by stating that ‘Willie learned over the years that all his friends who drank whiskey aren’t with us anymore, but that he’s gonna be 88 in a couple of days”- though he has since had his 88th birthday on the 29th of April. 

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More on That Rooftop Attempt 

Willie is a long-time friend of President Jimmy Carter and was invited to a performance at the White House in September 1980. That same night, President Carter’s son, Chip, and Willie snuck onto the roof and shared a joint, which was reported in Willie’s autobiography and was later confirmed by Carter himself. However, when Turk and Willie attempted to sneak up to the roof to do the very same thing, it was about 10 years later and they were invited by the outgoing Texas Gov. Ann Richards for a final dinner at the mansion. Turk and Willie were reportedly “looking around and pulling on windows and looking for a door” to get to the roof. However, Ann found the two and said “would you quit (expletive) around and come down to dinner”. Unfortunately, Ann knew Willie was coming and ensured there’d be no way to get to the roof. 

Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg in Amsterdam on 4/20

It was said that Willie could smoke everyone under the table, including the likes of Snoop Dog. Austin360 explains that Snoop asked Willie to feature on his track called “My Medicine”, to which Willie agreed on the condition that it be done in Amsterdam on 4/20 (April 20th). Willie reported that the two went to every coffee shop and ended up stoned out of their minds at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Additionally, Willie reported that he and Snoop had a ‘smoke off’ which resulted in Snoop having “crawled away”. Evidently, Willie is the only person who has ever out smoked Snoop Dog.  

My Stash is Your Stash

According to Willie’s Reserve, “ the cannabis culture is a way of life for him” and that “he has always operated under a simple philosophy: my stash is your stash”. The company states that they want to “pay tribute to this tradition of sharing, caring and toking” and that Willie’s vision “guides Willie’s Reserve”. Willie’s Reserve supplies premium products including cannabis flower, accessories, edibles, and vape products.  

Annie, Willie’s wife, told Rolling Stone that “he’s super-generous” and that “if there’s somebody around, he’ll want to offer it and do it with them to make them feel comfortable” despite having a history of emphysema. The Rolling Stone states that “in addition to being the world’s most legendary country artist, Willie Nelson might also be the world’s most legendary stoner”. They also explain that “before Snoop or Cheech and Chong or Woody Harrelson, there was Willie”. 

Willie spoke of the medicinal benefits of cannabis as well as of the economic potential of taxing the product long before there were any signs of this being a possibility. Now, Willie stated that “It’s so nice to watch it being accepted-knowing that you were right all the time about it: that it was not a killer drug” but that “it’s a medicine”. 

Willie’s Reserve VP, Elizabeth Hogan, usually states that “pot’s like sex- it’s all good, some is great” in response to which kind of weed Willie likes best. However, his wife claims that he is more of a ‘sativa’ kind of guy and that “he’s already funny, so it just makes him funnier”. Additionally, the Willie’s Reserve states that “Legends aren’t born. They’re made. And they grow”. 

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