Willie Nelson: True Icon of American Cannabis Culture

Stephen Andrews
29 Apr 2024

He is a symbol of American culture and a counterculture force. Legendary country musician Willie Nelson has been advocating for cannabis legalization long before it was cool. Now into the tenth decade of his life, he is still actively performing and playing music, and still sending important messages to the world.

One of the things Willie Nelson is most famous for is that he has always been deeply political and with true intentions in everything he does. The Texas-born artist embodies so much, except the conservative politics of his home state. Some of his fans have asked him to keep his music away from politics, but it has never been the other way round with the “Roll Me Up” singer. Nelson is turning 91, and he remains dedicated to his work and activism. 

Times have certainly changed since Willie first started to represent cannabis culture and give voice to the community. He has always been in the picture as someone who supports the plant, therefore advocating with huge zest for its legalization. He was also early on to launch his own cannabis line, Willie’s Reserve, in 2015, just as legal marijuana was starting to take hold in the U.S. The fact that Willie’s birthday falls nine days after 4/20 makes it all the more joyful to have him on the global cannabis scene. 

Last year, the revered country singer joined the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was also the year when his five-part documentary Willie Nelson & Family premiered at Sundance, the largest independent film festival in the U.S. Nelson also released I Don’t Know a Thing About Love, his 73rd studio album. 

Never Too Old to Change the World

Willie’s agenda has been quite filled also in 2024. He has so far appeared as a guest on Beyoncé’s first ever country album Cowboy Carter. And perhaps even more notably, just weeks ago, Nelson together with gay country icon Orville Peck released a duet cover of Ned Sublette’s 1981 song “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other.” As the name hints, it’s a song about gay cowboys. Willie Nelson reportedly personally asked Peck to work on the cover a few years ago, and now that it’s finally out, fans on both sides have praised it as “healing” for the entire LGBTQ+ community. 

“I think that the fact that Willie stands next to the entire LGBTQIA+ community by doing this song just shows what an amazing person he is, what a legend he is,” Peck praised Nelson in a recent statement. “It’s a win for all of us because that’s true allyship. Someone who’s completely unafraid to be right there next to us, there’s no vagueness involved.” 

Peck’s words precisely describe Nelson’s indisputable important presence and activism. He has been right there to support so many causes, including cannabis, without vagueness or any reservations about it. 

Smoking Weed on the Top of the White House

Nelson is someone who can also brag about one of the most famous smoking sessions ever—on the roof of the White House, where he reportedly lit up a “fat Austin torpedo” with one of the president’s sons back in 1978. He was invited to stay there by the Carter administration. 

James Earl “Chip” Carter III, the president’s middle son, was 28 at the time. The president would learn about this side episode only years later. Chip had reportedly asked the singer to keep it quiet about the puff so as not to be labeled a “pot-smoker” like Nelson. 

“I was staying at the White House and [Chip] took me up to the top of this thing up there, the top of the White House. It’s one of those great places where you can look around, 360 degrees,” Nelson recalls in his memoir. “And then we had a joint, we burned it down, and then went downstairs and bowled—they had a bowling alley downstairs. Then they put me up in the Lincoln Bedroom. I had a blast.”

Another thing Nelson can take pride in? Certainly his cannabis brand Willie’s Reserve. It has maintained popularity eight years after its launch. The same cannot be said for many other celebrity-backed weed brands. Just last November, the entire Willie cannabis line sold out as it debuted in Michigan. Such success is likely because the brand regularly introduces updates to keep up with the latest trends, and perhaps also because of Willie’s culture and attitudes toward cannabis. 

“The cannabis culture is a way of life for him. And he has always operated under a simple philosophy: My stash is your stash,” Josh Richman, one of the vice presidents at Willie’s Reserve, has told Westworld, a Denver-based independent news portal in an interview. “We wouldn’t call Willie’s Reserve a celebrity brand, but if we must, that level of involvement and authenticity is not typical for celebrity brands. It’s not something that you can just create, and we understand how blessed we are to work with Willie.” 

Willie’s Reserve has been releasing new lines of flower, pre-rolls, vaping, cartridges, and CBD products since 2016. The company is based in Colorado but is continually expanding. Besides Michigan it successfully launched in Massachusetts and Missouri last year. 

Whether you are wondering what cannabis products Willie enjoys the most, Richman says he has tried it all at one point or another. However, he has shared that “he smokes less and snacks more these days, and is glad for the options,” Richman told Westworld.

Is Willie Nelson one of the greatest people ever born in Texas? He absolutely is. Cheers, buddy! And now it’s time to play “It’s All Going to Pot.”

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Stephen Andrews