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'Cannabis Saved My Life,' Says Birthday Boy Willie Nelson

Cannabis culture is forever indebted to Willie Nelson for demonstrating that even heavy pot consumers can lead healthy, productive lives. But the country legend is also forever indebted to cannabis, which he says has kept him on the right side of the grass for decades.

Back in the 70s, Nelson was in rough shape after years of abusing whiskey and chain-smoking. Then one day, he dropped both vices through a novel approach. 

“I had a pack of 20 Chesterfields, and I threw ’em all away and rolled up 20 fat joints, stuck ’em in there,” he told Rolling Stone in an interview celebrating his 86th birthday today. “I haven’t smoked a cigarette since. I haven’t drank that much either, because one will make me want the other — I smoke a cigarette, I wanna drink a whiskey. Drink a whiskey, want a cigarette. That’s me. I can’t speak for nobody else.”

Nelson has no doubt that ditching cigarettes for joints gave him a new lease on life.

“I wouldn’t be alive. It saved my life, really. I wouldn’t have lived 85 years if I’d have kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old."

And if nicotine didn't kill him, he thinks something - or somebody else - would have at some point years ago.

"I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too — out there drunk, running around.”

Now he feels like he's living, breathing proof that cannabis is benign. 

“I’m kind of the canary in the mine, if people are wondering what happens if you smoke that shit a long time,” he said. “You know, if I start jerking or shaking or something, don’t give me no more weed. But as long as I’m all right...”

Of course, he has experienced some common side effects of cannabis, like memory loss. But he's even upbeat about that supposed drawback.

"They say people who smoke pot have a short-term memory. Maybe that’s good, you know?" he told Rolling Stone. "Because [otherwise] you start remembering a lot of negative things that you’re not supposed to remember. And the next thing you know, you’re back drinking whiskey."

When asked if there's anything that he regrets being unable to remember, Nelson showed that his folksy wit is sharp as ever.

"Oh, probably. But I forgot it."

Check out the full interview here.

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