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Highly Likely #80: Willie Nelson

At last, Highly Likely profiles the weed-fueled life of Willie Nelson, possibly the greatest living Cannabis celebrity.

My friends, this column has now been published over 80 times in the family of Leaf magazines. That’s 80 different subjects to admire and learn about in connection to Cannabis. Some are familiar, some not so much. How is it then, that I somehow overlooked whom many consider to be the greatest living Cannabis activist and celebrity? Why I’ve never stopped to write about the weed-fueled life of Willie Nelson … I don’t know.

But I correct that mistake this month.

Willie Nelson is one of the greatest country music artists of all time. His kind, gentle demeanor and easygoing sound have endeared him to millions upon millions of fans. You never hear anybody say anything bad about Willie Nelson.  

The legendary singer and guitar player turned 89 years old this year and for most of his adult life, he’s been hard at work trying to destigmatize Cannabis culture.

Nelson’s first experience smoking weed was in 1954 at a roadside bar near Fort Worth, Texas. He was 21 years old and a big drinker (whiskey being his choice) when he tried a joint given to him by a fellow musician – but it didn’t do anything for him. It wouldn’t be until six months later that Nelson finally figured out how to properly inhale the low-grade THC Cannabis of the 1950s. “One night I did it right,” said Nelson. Thus began his love affair with the herb.

It wouldn’t be until 1971, however, that Nelson would finally put a reference to weed in a song. It was a veiled reference (to a “green telephone”), of course, because at that time Cannabis usage – even in the outlaw country scene that Willie was a part of – was still a taboo subject. But as he continued to consume Cannabis, Nelson began to realize not just the harmlessness of smoking pot, but the healing powers of the plant. An advocate was born.

The rest, as they say, is history. There’s the story of Willie smoking a joint on the roof of the White House, and of him attempting to do the same at the Texas Governor’s Mansion. And there’s all of the celebrities that have wanted to smoke with him, from Snoop Dogg to Toby Keith to Luke Wilson.

But Nelson wasn’t just content to live the celebrity life of the world’s most recognizable weed connoisseur – instead, he’s worked tirelessly since the late ‘70s to normalize the use of Cannabis. That’s been done primarily through his own serene personality and a sort of honesty whenever he’s asked about his use of the plant, not to mention his namesake brand of legal weed – Willie’s Reserve – which proudly adorns shelves of dispensaries across the U.S.

At almost 90 years old, Willie Nelson doesn’t smoke the herb as much these days, but he does still enjoy the benefits of Cannabis via edibles. And for all of us still smoking out there, we have people like Willie Nelson to thank for paving the way toward Cannabis freedom.

This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of All Magazines.

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