Cannabis culture and music legend Willie Nelson are so intertwined you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. The Lone Star state native has spent a lifetime as an outspoken supporter of legalized adult-use cannabis. Nelson once smoked weed on the White House roof with Jimmy Carter’s son, and he’s the only person to ever out smoke fellow icon Snoop Dogg during the duo’s well-publicized adventure in Amsterdam, where they visited every cannabis coffee house.
Legend has it that Nelson’s love affair with weed began at a roadside bar in Fort Worth in 1954. In his autobiography, Nelson recalls fellow musician Fred Lockwood suggested they “blow tea,” a phrase of storied history among jazz musicians in Harlem in the 1930s. According to Nelson, Lockwood handed him a joint and told him to “Get high and be somebody.” Although it took him a few solitary tries to get the hang of smoking a joint, he “did it right” one night.
Between 1969 and 1971, Nelson’s look went through a dramatic evolution. At the end of the 1960s, Nelson was almost unrecognizable from the long-haired outlaw we know and love. Back then, he was a clean-cut crooner in conservative Nashville country duds, and by the early ’70s, his hair was longer, his beard was growing in and his Western wear had a decidedly casual slant.
It was around this time that cannabis first appeared in Nelson’s lyrics. In the song “I’m A Memory” he sings, “I’m a love that you know from a song/I’m a voice on a green telephone/I’m a day that lasted so long.”
Nelson became a cannabis entrepreneur in 2015 with the launch of Willie’s Reserve in Colorado. The brand’s ethos reflects Nelson’s attitude toward sharing—”my stash is your stash” is his motto. Nelson worked with the best growers in the US to source only the best buds for his line of flower, concentrates, pre-rolls and more.
In recognition of a lifetime’s worth of advocacy, Northern California’s cannabis awards ceremony, the Emerald Cup renamed the event’s lifetime achievement award to the “Willie Nelson Award” in 2018.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.