Best known for his decades-long entertainment career, Willie Nelson is among the most popular country music singers of the late 20th century. He's even had the privilege of being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
But music isn’t Nelson’s only claim to fame. He's also an advocate of marijuana and has long been involved in the industry.
Many familiar with him know that he's very fond of smoking marijuana, but Nelson’s love of cannabis runs much deeper. He's also hyper-aware of the plant’s healing properties and has supported the production and use of medicinal cannabis for decades.
Nelson is one of the earliest advocates for marijuana use and never hid his affinity for it, despite facing backlash and criticism back in the 1960s and 1970s, when mainstream cannabis culture was in its infancy.
Despite the backlash, Nelson continued to support the use of marijuana and stood behind its ability to heal.
Surprisingly, Nelson never used cannabis for recreational purposes.
“It’s medicine, and it’s already been proven to be medicine,” he told The Cannabist. “End of story.”
Instead, he’s used it to relax and transport himself into a creative state. He also used it to alleviate various ailments, including emphysema caused by excessive drinking and smoking cigarettes, he told the publication.
In fact, Nelson believes that marijuana’s healing properties are what helped him achieve incredible success in the music industry.
"The biggest killer on the planet is stress, and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis,” he has said.
Now, the 85-year-old is extremely passionate about how cannabis is grown and harvested and is vocal about unregulated growth environments. More specifically, Nelson warns against cannabis products that are laced with all sorts of chemicals and pesticides: "I don’t like it when they put chemicals and pesticides in it; That makes it not much better than a regular old cigarette.”
Nelson is also a fierce fighter in the “War on Drugs,” advocating against the stigmatization and for the legalization of marijuana.
For decades, the public has been bombarded with anti-cannabis messages about the plant that has deeply instilled fear about its use. But studies have shown cannabis is much less addictive than alcohol and nicotine-laden cigarettes.
That said, many are overcoming that fear, though Nelson is somewhat perplexed about why it has taken so long. “I’m still surprised it took this long for educated people to get a little sense,” he said.
However, he doesn't believe that the fear will ever be entirely overcome.
"I don’t think we ever will be 100 percent for it,” he told The Cannabist. “There are always a few stragglers over there who can’t really understand it.”
Nelson ‘s contribution to the cannabis culture cannot be understated. He currently serves as co-chair for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), an organization dedicated to shifting public opinion on marijuana and pushing for its legalization.
NORML is also committed to ensuring access to high-quality cannabis products that are safe and affordable.
Nelson also runs his own cannabis reserve company, “Willie’s Reserve,” which offers several strains of marijuana. Starting the company gave the country star a way to help others be able to take advantage of the many healing qualities of marijuana.
His goal is to make Willie’s Reserve marijuana products - which Willie himself stands behind and trusts - available and accessible in dispensaries everywhere. Nelson is using his company to ensure that cannabis strains are only created by experts and sold only by trustworthy sources so that consumers are offered the most carefully-chosen products.
Nelson also later started Willie's Remedy as a counterpart to Willie's Reserve, a line dedicated to creating and selling products high in cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gets users high - CBD offers similar healing properties but without the mind-altering effects.
The product line is quite varied and includes:
Nelson has reaped the benefits of cannabis throughout his life, touting it as alleviating many symptoms he’s suffered from throughout the years. Now, he's dedicated to giving back and helping others take advantage of marijuana's health benefits by creating top-notch, pure products that are convenient and safe to take.
“I’ve smoked enough and I want to give back,” he said in a news release. “Now that legalization is spreading across the country, there’s a great opportunity to build a company that can help a lot of people.”
With decades of experience using medicinal marijuana, Willie Nelson has certainly learned a thing or two about the plant and how it can play a role in the world of medicine and wellness amidst the noise of potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.
He's seen both ends of the marijuana controversy, having lived through the days when the plant was heavily stigmatized, only to come out the other end with its gradual legalization and a revitalized cannabis culture.
These days, Nelson not only continues to enjoy marijuana and all its wellness benefits, but he’s taken steps to help others take advantage of it, too.