The arc of cannabis in the U.S. is the arc of Willie Nelson's life.
In Rolling Stone's April 2019 Weed Issue, Nelson is profiled in the “The High Life,” where he takes a deep look into the impact that a career orbiting weed has had — how cannabis has evolved, how it has saved him from himself, and even that one time he smoked weed on the roof of the White House with former President Jimmy Carter's son.
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Nelson is considered a legend for plenty of good reasons. He's, for one, a modern marijuana mogul. His namesake brand Willie's Reserve is on shelves in six legal markets across the country, while Willie's Remedy, his new CBD line, sells nationally online. He's been arrested for cannabis possession several times throughout his career since smoking his first joint in 1954.
Here are seven takeaways from the profile:
Nelson is High 'Pretty Much All the Time.'
To smoke as much weed as Willie Nelson is its own cultural superlative. While he admitted he's high “pretty much all the time,” his wife, Annie, explains his routine as nothing overkill: a few puffs off of a vape and then a few chocolates, occasionally hitting an “expensive version of a gravity bong.” His vape makes a regular appearance throughout the interview. Annie continues, “If there's somebody around, he'll want to offer it and do it with them to make them feel comfortable.”
He Smoked with Jimmy Carter's Son on the Roof of the White House
From Nelson himself: “Chip Carter took me down into the bottom of the White House, where the bowling alley is,” Nelson said. Then they went up to the roof and smoked a joint. Nelson remembers Carter explaining the surrounding view — the Washington Monument, the string of lights on Pennsylvania Avenue. “It's really pretty nice up there," Nelson said.
Nelson Spoke Out On Weed As Medicine
“It's nice to watch it being accepted — knowing you were right all the time about it: that it was not a killer drug,” Nelson said. “It's a medicine.” Where cannabis and farmer's rights combine, you'll find hemp and marijuana reform. Nelson founded Farm Aid in 1985 and has been a co-chair on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' (NORML) national board for more than 15 years. In 2010, he formed the TeaPot Party under the motto “Tax it, regulate it, and legalize it!”
His 'Famous Stash' Includes the Weed Fans Throw on Stage
While he doesn't discriminate by strains and refuses to pick a favorite, even within his own brand line. But Nelson does have what he calls his “famous stash”. It's a collection of weed (that Nelson used to allegedly keep in a Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox) and inside it, sits “a bunch of random kinds that have been given to him by fans or thrown onto the stage.”
He's Zen AF
Rolling Stone writer Patrick Doyle detailed the long stretches of silence when speaking with Nelson. Nelson's friend Steve Earle said he's “serene”, and “expects everything around him to go OK.” Nelson has an equally zen view on short term memory loss and presence: “There's nothing I can do about what happened a while ago,” Nelson said. “Nothing I can do about what's going to happen in a minute. Right now? I can try to pretty much control everything.”
Nelson's Title at Willie's Reserve is Chief Tasting Officer.
Willie's Reserve, in his modest words, has been “fairly lucrative.” His eponymous brand is on shelves in Nevada, Colorado, California, Washington, and Oregon, while his newest cannabis company, Willie's Remedy CBD line, sells nationally online. But his official title is "chief tasting officer."
Weed is an Alternative to Addictive Drugs
Nelson talks about how cannabis saved him from worse addictions, including alcoholism. Nelson quit “whiskey and cigarettes” and has consumed only weed since 1978. “I wouldn't be alive. It saved my life, really. I wouldn't have lived 85 years if I'd have kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old. I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too — out there drunk, running around.”