Willie Nelson Takes On Big Marijuana

By May Wilkerson 11/04/15

The legendary country singer and long-time pot advocate fears the corporatization of weed.

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Willie Nelson
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Everyone knows Willie Nelson loves pot, but that doesn’t mean he wants big corporations to get their mitts on it. The country singer has been a long-time proponent of legalization, but now that it’s becoming legal in more states, Nelson worries money-hungry investors will create monopolies in the business.

The 82-year-old, who spoke to the magazine at the 30th anniversary of Farm Aid, a musical benefit for farmers that he started, has witnessed a sea change in attitudes towards marijuana in his lifetime. Some form of the drug has been legalized in 23 states, with about 80% of the country now polling in favor of legal medicinal use.

But as support for weed has grown, so has corporate interest. This has upset many pro-pot activists, who see corporatization as contrary to the values at the core of the pro-marijuana movement.

“It looks a lot like the concentration of capital that we have seen with Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco,” said Alison Holcomb, who wrote the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Washington State. “I think that’s problematic for cannabis-law reformers, because it plays into our opposition’s strongest argument.”

The specter of a corporatized marijuana industry not only presents a conflict of values, but raises possible public health concerns since big corporations tend to employ industrial use of pesticides to maximize profits.

“For the average little black-market grower, it’s done on such a small scale that they’re not even using pesticides,” said Keith Stroup, who founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “But when you’re investing millions of dollars in a large cultivation center, you can bet they are not going to take the risk of their crop getting wiped out by mold or mildew or insects.”

Though Nelson has launched his own brand of marijuana, Willie’s Reserve, he fears that the rise of Big Pot will create a slew of problems. Among them would be creating hurdles on the road to legalization.

“These problems could have been fixed on the first day,” said Nelson, referring to legal conflicts with the federal ban on pot, “but you have a lot of bureaucracy and bullshit, a lot of big corporations. So that’s what we’re up against. They’re trying to monopolize it all ... That ain’t right, and we’ll do everything we can to keep that from happening.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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