AUSTIN, Texas — In May, Rolling Stone asked Willie Nelson if there’s any “downside” to smoking weed. Nelson replied: “I haven’t run into any yet. I guess if you go somewhere where it’s illegal, that’s a pretty good downside.”
When it comes to marijuana, the storied musician’s home state of Texas definitely has a pretty good downside.
While he remains one of marijuana’s foremost cultural ambassadors, Nelson has also gotten into the big-time cannabis business. His namesake brand of Willie’s Reserve is currently sold in three western states, in flower and edible form. But it’s nowhere to be found in the Lone Star State, where weed remains stubbornly illegal and heavily criminalized. If Texans want to snack on pot chocolates created by Nelson’s spouse Annie Nelson, they’d better figure out how to get up to Denver or Seattle.
Possession of more than four ounces in Texas is a felony that can get you a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison. The same goes for possessing any amount of hash or concentrates. Meanwhile, the state’s medical cannabis law only allows low-THC strains that are heavy in cannabidiol (CBD), and only for children with a particular type of intractable epilepsy.
Nelson was nowhere to be seen during this desperate fight. No one here has more cultural credibility or cachet than he does. So he should leverage it to help legalize marijuana in Texas. His longtime advocacy for cannabis could be influential in a state where lawmakers only meet every two years and citizens can’t put initiatives on the state-wide ballot.