Interview and photo by Mary Otte
On September 18, the legendary and perpetually touring Willie Nelson played to a full house at the historic McMenamins Edgefield venue in Portland, Oregon. Except it’s not really a house, it’s a lawn, and in true Oregon fashion it rained nearly an inch for Nelson’s set. But not surprisingly, that full lawn wasn’t going anywhere. A mud stomping good time was had by all and Nelson was in top form, giving the crowd hit after Willicious hit. Fragrant pot clouds overrode clouded skies, and even the rain kicked back and relaxed during “Uncloudy Day.” Before heading off to his next gig in Eugene, Oregon, Nelson took a time out with HIGH TIMES to talk about Proposition 19, Farm Aid and what his multitalented kids are up to these days.
HT: This is an exciting time for marijuana reform, with 14 states having successfully voted in positive pot laws and with the Proposition 19 legalization initiative on the California ballot this year. You’ve been a cannabis advocate for decades now, did you think that it would take this long to get this far? Do you see victory on the horizon?
WN: I know that the opposition is maybe in numbers not that large or that strong, but it is strong as far as where these people are coming from and the money they have to spend to keep things like that from happening. A lot of those people are just having a hissy because California and some more places may have legal marijuana, they’re spending all sorts of money to stop it and I expect that to continue, but I don’t think they can win. I think the truth is our main weapon and people who smoke marijuana know that it doesn’t lead to other things. They know that it has a medicinal impact and there’s a reason that they call it medicinal marijuana. A lot of people have realized that it’s a great stress reliever, so once you smoke marijuana you understand that it’s not anything deadly or dangerous. It can be helpful – it can also be overused. It’s not as bad as cigarette smoke, but if you smoke too much of it you can get congested. But as far as cigarettes and alcohol and all those other things that kill you, I’ve never heard of marijuana killing anybody. I’ve heard of a bale falling on a guy and that killed him, but… [chuckles]
Of course, I would endorse it anywhere, in any state, any time. I think eventually, the worse the economy gets, the more sense it makes to legalize marijuana. First of all, you save all that money being spent on drug enforcement, all the money that goes for putting people in prison for smoking pot. There’s just millions and millions of dollars that can be saved by legalizing it. All the people who grow for the drug cartels in Mexico and the cartels all over the rest of the world, they don’t want to see it legalized. A lot of the growers don’t want to see it legalized. But it has to be. I think it’s the future, eventually we’ll get it legalized and we’ll be like Amsterdam. I can’t wait.
What I’m mainly doing is lending my name to a product we call BioWilly, which is just my way of saying that people should be thinking of alternative fuels. There’s really no need for us to go around the world starting wars over oil. We have our own resources: wind, water, bio-fuels, all these things are here and we should be using them.
We’re doing Farm Aid 25 this year over in Milwaukee, October the 2nd. There’s a huge connection between farmers and legalizing cannabis and hemp. The farmer can improve his bottom line capital a great deal and can possibly stay in business and keep his farm if they would allow him to grow those things. And I think that eventually the economy is going to determine whether we do or not, but I think it’s getting pretty close.
Would Farm Aid be at the forefront of a hemp farming revolution upon legalization?
Well, there’s a natural connection there. Because it’s a touchy situation still, I think it would be not wise for Farm Aid to come out and say “Okay we need to legalize marijuana and hemp” and all that, but I can say it. I can say it without expressing Farm Aid’s views – I realize there’s a lot of people who think that might be a stretch. But as far as personally? I think if they legalized hemp and marijuana that it would be a big help to the small family farmer, not to mention all the help it would be in all the other areas.
Music seems to be encoded in your genes, care to brag about your kids?
I’m really proud of my kids. They’re all into music one way or another. My son Lucas has a great band and he’s out there playing all over the country and doing well. My son Micah has a band, he’s doing well and he’s a great artist, he’s in college in L.A. My daughter Paula, she’s doing well, her music is doing fine, she’s making some good videos and working some good gigs. My other daughter Amy, she and Cathy Guthrie, Arlo’s daughter, have a group called Folk Uke. So everybody’s in the music business in my family, I guess.
Your creativity, output and constant touring after all these years are inspirational to say the least. How do you do it?
I really think that a positive attitude is the most important thing that we can develop. We have to believe that everything’s going to be okay and live like it is. That’s my philosophy.