Willie Nelson Talks All Things Weed

By McCarton Ackerman 11/03/16

Nowadays, Nelson views his own pot use as purely medicinal.

Willie Nelson Talks All Things Weed

Willie Nelson has been smoking pot for over 60 years and has no plans to stop anytime soon.

The 83-year-old country music legend opened up about his personal marijuana history in a new interview with The Cannabist. He recalled smoking pot for the first time in the '50s, but said the effects of the drug didn’t register until months later.

“I think I was probably 19 or 20 years old playing in bars in Fort Worth, and I ran into a guy who smoked pot and I’d never smoked it before,” he said. “I smoked (weed) for a long time without getting high — for months I would smoke and smoke and I wasn’t getting high, and I couldn’t figure out why. And then one day I did and I said, ‘Oh OK, that’s what it’s all about.’ But I guess I’d smoked so much other stuff, cigarettes and things, that my lungs weren’t in great shape.”

Marijuana remains Nelson’s only vice these days. He’ll have an occasional sip of wine, but said he's more cautious after having emphysema and "all kinds of different health problems caused by drinking and smoking [tobacco]." He views his own pot use as purely medicinal, and said it's good for “calming the nerves” and getting the creative juices flowing.

He’s also taken up vaping for the sake of his voice. “I’m sure lighting up a joint is not that easy on your lungs,” said Nelson. “A singer has to think about stuff like that. Smoking a joint in paper is not as good for your lungs as it is doing it in a vaporizer. It’s a no-brainer, really.”

The songwriter and activist fittingly launched his own marijuana line this year, Willie’s Reserves, and had an open hiring process for five positions this past June. He’s become well known for his marijuana law reform advocacy, and with his company he'll tackle environmental and social issues, including the failed War on Drugs.

“We’ve had so many negative things thrown at us about what it does to you and the bad things that marijuana can do to,” said Nelson. “And fear is a hard thing to overcome, so all that had to be overcome. Now when people smoke or eat a piece of candy they realize that, ‘Wait a minute. What’s the big deal?’”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.