Willie Nelson Takes Last Aim and Declares War on Big Marijuana


By Heather Callaghan

The 82-year-old music sensation says he doesn’t have many fights left – but he musters it all against Big Pot to keep corporate paws from ruining cannabis freedom forever.

There are two things you can guarantee to be on Willie Nelson’s tour bus at all times besides his loving wife Annie and musician son, Lukas – that would be his Winchester rifle above his bed and a vast array of marijuana, usually in the form of smoke plumes if Willie’s there. Publicly, he has always been known for being open about his cannabis use.

Nelson was also known for propelling the creation of Farm Aid after hearing Bob Dylan controversially mention helping American farmers while doing a Live Aid show. Nelson just happened to be watching Dylan say this and was hit with inspiration for Farm Aid while he was there to play and doing – what else? Smoking marijuana, of course. Wil S. Hylton writing for New York magazine describes the tour bus table before Willie at the 30th Farm Aid as holding a “a vase full of pencils, an orange lighter, a smattering of pre-rolled doobies, an ashtray cluttered with the remainders of joints gone by, a dish of loose cannabis caked with kief, three slim vaporizers of marijuana extract, and a deck of black playing cards printed with the words WILLIE’S RESERVE in saloon lettering.”

Willie seems to look back on those first Farm Aid concerts with naivete – he thought it would signal to Congress a need for a serious solution and that would end the need to have the benefits. This writer wonders whether it signaled to Congress that someone else would clean up the scandalous banking/inflation mess that lead to a devastating farm-death epidemic in the 1980s. Still, Nelson says that things are better as people are now  “thinking about buying and growing sustainably.”

Hylton says, “the forces of Big Agriculture have, like Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, fallen into widespread disrepute. It is easy to forget that just 30 years ago, basically nobody was talking about these things, and that Nelson as much as anyone helped to mobilize the local-food movement.”

He was an advocate of marijuana legalization too and has seen the ups and downs. Approximately 80% of Americans are okay with medicinal marijuana and even more states are anticipated to follow Washington and Colorado’s giant step toward legalization for recreational use. The Federal government is always a thorn in the side of cannabis users and dispensaries – but legalization has unfortunately opened another kind of jar… Investors.

Now in his sunset years, Nelson is shifting his energy away from marijuana legalization to the battle against Big Pot.

Hylton announces [emphasis added by H.C.],

Even as the country has softened its stance toward marijuana, a legion of large corporations has gathered to dominate the legal market. Nelson figures he has at least one good fight left. In what may be his last political act, he is declaring war on Big Pot.

It appears that just a handful of developers are disgracing the memory of comedian Bill Hicks by putting a platinum, flashing dollar sign on a beneficial plant. They want to establish the first national brand and turn the symbol of cannabis freedom into nothing more than a Starbucks drive-thru.

Hylton dug into the research and found,

In the face of all this, investors have naturally begun piling into pot. A race is on to establish the first truly national marijuana brand. The most visible contender in this contest is probably the company Privateer Holdings, which was founded by three Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, one of whom had never smoked pot in his life but who somehow managed to persuade Bob Marley’s family to license his name and image to their packaging. This spring, Privateer completed its second capital drive for a total of $82 million in start-up cash. Or maybe the rise of corporate marijuana is better illustrated by the tech millionaire Jamen Shively, who announced plans in 2013 to create a chain of pot shops modeled on Starbucks that would “mint more millionaires than Microsoft” — acknowledging at one point, “We are Big Marijuana.”

Even the most ardent advocates of legalization have been troubled by the rise of Big Pot. The legalization movement is organized largely around issues of social justice, and for activists who have spent decades railing against the disproportionate impact of the drug war on poor communities, it has been unsettling to watch legalization engender a new slate of economic disparities. Alison Holcomb, who wrote the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Washington State, told me that a cannabis industry dominated by large corporations would threaten the core values of the legalization movement. “It looks a lot like the concentration of capital that we have seen with Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco,” she said. “I think that’s problematic for cannabis-law reformers, because it plays into our opposition’s strongest argument.” Holcomb pointed to the initiative in Ohio this month, where a consortium of large marijuana investors has spent about $15 million to promote legalization, while opponents have spent less than $1 million and focused not on legalization itself, but on the fact that the new law would permit only ten of those large producers to operate in the state.

Legalization and cannabis health advocates voice another valid worry: that the corporate takeover of cannabis leads to monoculture and chemical methods of pest control when grown on a massive scale. This leads to a downgrade in the quality seen by individual growers who grow such small scale that they forego the use of chemicals altogether. It’s one thing to ingest such products on an apple; but it’s wholly another to smoke them into the lungs when the chemical-laced marijuana hits brain cells nearly instantaneously.

Pesticides have already been found by unwitting consumers and no health guidelines have been established. Previously, in Denver, Colorado, 60,000 plants were found to be laced with pesticide, myclobutanil. This will probably perk the ears of both the EPA and FDA who let corporations like Monsanto poison the food supply and take their word its safe, but will, no doubt, rush in to shut down cannabis growers the moment they raise a regulatory flag. (At least they would be doing their jobs?)

This problem will also spawn a new area of study which will no doubt show the ill effects of smoking marijuana sprayed with pesticides. People are already calling for government and scientific intervention – or some kind of deus ex machina like a benevolent corporation (yeah, right!) – and it’s hard to blame them if they might be unwittingly sucking noxious fumes deep into their lungs on a daily basis. When it comes to the delicate battle for cannabis legalization – salivating corporations can ruin the whole thing.

Earlier this year, Nelson talked of opening a marijuana company called Willie’s Reserve, but not much is
known yet about what that would entail. He said, “I’ve smoked enough and I want to give back.” But chances are, he also wants to protect his almost inhuman consumption from corporate handling.

Nelson is quoted as saying about the budding business,

I really believe in the environmental aspect of this. It’s a great way to revitalize small farms, and I want to make sure that any product we grow is as clean as we can make it and that, wherever possible, we’re trying to lower the environmental impact of our operations.

Marijuana is currently the fastest growing U.S. industry – look at Hylton’s report for a comparison of the business models including Willie’s Reserve. Wall St is happy to grab all the action, especially since banks are skittish about lending for small marijuana business and the federal government has placed the cannabis business into an obscure and expensive tax code with virtually no business write-offs. Now we see how the corporate vacuum formed.

Nelson’s wife Annie commented,

If you believe in the free market, then a decentralized market is free. And with a free market, people have a choice to buy clean herb. There’s some over here, and some over there, and the market can demand what people want.

Willie added,

These problems could have been fixed on the first day – but you have a lot of bureaucracy and bullshit, a lot of big corporations. So that’s what we’re up against. They’re trying to monopolize it all. That’s horseshit. That ain’t right, and we’ll do everything we can to keep that from happening.

You don’t have to light up to believe in cannabis freedom, health freedom, freedom from corporatocracy and ending the War on Drugs. Even though the chill musician can probably credit his health and lustrous hair – at least in part to cannabis – he still feels like he won’t be able to take too many more stands. But this one is important to this highway man – is it important to you?

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Flickr Image: by joshbg2k

This article (Willie Nelson Takes Last Aim and Declares War on Big Marijuana) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Heather Callaghan and Natural Blaze.com.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com. Like at Facebook.

  • leibniz09

    Good for Willie!

  • Deb

    “Big Pharma” /Business/Government is going to put their nasty paws on this beneficial herb and change it for evil purposes like they do everything else. Was reading early today how Bayer came up with a nice little otc drug in 1898 that got a lot of people addicted before it was banned…Heroin was at one time given as a cough and sleep aid… ….the poppy from which it came …was used for pain control for years prior with few becoming addicted to the point of being useless. (If you have chronic illness the point of addiction becomes mute …..the natural God given plant will always be a better choice) You make the common man think that you are for his good and not your own…then they will take anything you offer…hook, line and sinker. Especially if he has been brainwashed to think that doctors are demigods. We will almost beg the doctor to give us something out of his box of horrors to confound our body and kill the soul. Before Bayer….there was cannabis and poppies that helped to control the pain and suffering of a myriad of illnesses …most used only in sickness and quit in health as health was preferred over the feeling of “over” restfulness that these helpful herbs and flowers afford besides if you did not work…you did not eat. Man made the flower too potent and intents on doing that with God’s beautiful gift to man…what he has done to the beautiful flower …he will do to the bud. If you are able to simply quit an herb then it must be changed to make it more “desirable” or everyone will grow tired of it….like I did with pot back in the 70’s. I am one of the most addictive person’s I know….smoked all through my teens and 20’s and once I hit 30…decided I did not like the “laid-back” feeling and quit. No problems…no withdrawals …no craving….just quit. Along comes Lyme disease in my late 50’s and my interest in cannabis has grown….it is time for God’s herb to be released to grow as He intended….wild and free of man’s intervention….we mess up everything.

  • chiliboots

    ‘Corporate Marijuana’ is a contradiction in terms.

    Once they dominate the market, GMO Pot cannot be far behind. Current potency is already reported to be well-beyond what
    it was in the 70’s. Once it is thoroughly ‘engineered’, one is looking at ‘Soma’.

    What has the corporate structure ever ‘improved’?

    And, of course, this entirely corrupt ‘government’ will be intrinsically
    embedded, as well.

  • The Great French Revolution cannot be underestimated as we look forward to the immediate future of the world.

    The ‘solution’ to ‘gay marriage’ is simply to take government out of the marriage licensing business, a top-to-bottom irrational scam.

    The’solution’ to ‘big pharma’ and now ‘big pot,’ is to acknowledge that hemp is the world’s most #1 most useful and ecologically viable building material and energy source. AND, that its cousin marijuana is also the worlds most useful medicinal substance, bar none.

    I mention ‘the Revolution’ first, because astute political scholars can easily see the running game of bait-and-switch that Team Rothschild has engaged in since prior to the Battle of Waterloo. Willie Nelson is just another Robespierre in their convoluted game.

  • GMO hemp, not ‘pot’ (the political-class term) is already here, MUCH of it in the form of final stage spraying so that the chemically-induced ‘high’ is actually pure poison.

    Again, when the people of the world have had enough of this transparent, 135 nation UN scourage orchestrated by Rockefeller to promote big chemical industrial pharma, only then we will be able to do something concrete about it.

  • ..and just one more reason to detest con artists like Hillary!!

  • craigbhill

    Love how Willie is immune to law enforcement this side of the IRS. But in Colorado, the test tube for the future of literally Pot Nation, corporate pot is overwhelmed by individual mom and pops selling high quality at stunningly cheap prices. This is not a battle against corporate pigs muscling in that can be won by Willie in general, there will always be people who buy crap from pot warehouses even cheaper than it goes for now in Colo, but the pot “industry” is like the fine wine industry, there are too many growers who treasure their high quality non-pesticide-ridden products, at higher cost than McDonalds Weed or whatever is inevitably coming in this greedy corporate-accepting society. Willie can’t win short of a bloody revolution in a land where the corporate-concentrated model is firmly and thoroughly embraced by the laughingly un-free and not-brave. But in the case of weed, the discriminating consumer will always have non-corporate outlets and the best they can afford.

  • craigbhill

    Get enlightened. Smoke some dope. There is no God’s Weed or God’s anything, it’s all good even if you can’t smoke it.

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