Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Willie Nelson to launch own brand of weed

Willie Nelson. (photo: Tucson Sentinel)
Willie Nelson. (photo: Tucson Sentinel)

By James Joiner, The Daily Beast
26 March 15 
There will be branded bongs and stores, too, as Willie gets out ahead of big industry in states where pot is legal.
illie Nelson takes a hit of the cigarette-sized vaporizer in his gnarled hand, exhaling a small cloud, before placing it on the foldout table in front of us. We’re seated in the cool enclave of his tour bus, at the entrance to his sprawling property just outside Austin, Texas, which he has dubbed the town of Luck. Up a hill and around a corner, people are rocking out at Willie’s own Heartbreaker Banquet, an annual fundraiser/music festival held concurrently with SXSW.

Now 81, Willie is biding his time before joining the festivities, and we’re talking about why he puts on the event every year. In the process, he lets slip that he has something else in the works: a new brand of weed, called, naturally, Willie’s Reserve.

Pressed on this, he’s either dismissive or coy, though he does indicate that the smoking implement he has again picked up is a part of the line. The PR person promises to connect me with Michael Bowman, a veteran hemp and pot lobbyist who serves as the fledgling brand’s spokesperson. Two days later, much colder, much more sober, and back in my native New England, Bowman and I connect by phone.

The discussion is below, but the rub is that the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines. 

So what exactly is Willie’s Reserve?

Well, you know, Willie has spent a lifetime in support of cannabis, both the industrial hemp side and the marijuana side. He wants it to be something that’s reflective of his passion. Ultimately, it’s his. But it was developed by his family, and their focus on environmental and social issues, and in particular this crazy war on drugs, and trying to be a bright light amongst this trail as we’re trying to extract ourselves from the goo of prohibition.

Really he wants it, at the end of the day, to envelop what his personal morals and convictions are. So from the store itself to how they’ll work with suppliers and how things are operated, it’s going to be very reflective of Willie’s life. 

Wait, so there’s going to be stores? 

Well, yeah, they’re in the making. I think it’s safe to say that there will be stores that roll out in the states where marijuana has become legal. 

So will there be signature strains that you grow under Willie’s oversight? Or will you sell other people’s strains? 

It’ll be both. There will be our own, and then there will be opportunities for other growers, who meet quality standards. Let’s just call it the anti-Walmart model. Personally, internally, that’s what we call it. A certain standard by which growers have to account for carbon and such, in a way that empowers small growers who are doing the right thing. 

So you’ll also be a distributor of sorts. 

It will be like when you walk into a Whole Foods store. Whole Foods has their 365 brand, or you can buy Stony Brook, or you can buy Horizon… It’ll all fall under that umbrella of “here’s our core beliefs, and here’s our mission statement,” and they will be a part of that, to be a part of us. 

How many stores are you looking at opening?

That’s gonna depend… Right now, we’ll focus on the states where legalization has occurred, and as new states open up, those opportunities will present themselves on a state-by-state basis. Or until the feds do something! 

When do you plan to open the first one? 

In the next calendar year that there will be movement. As you can imagine, it’s not a problem in states like Colorado, Washington, Alaska… There’s a pretty clear path on where retail can go. 

OK, so what strains are Willie’s favorites? 

You know, I don’t know that! I know that he clearly has an opportunity to test a number of those, but I can’t tell you which ones are his favorites. 

How did you get involved with Willie? 

Well, Annie (Willie’s wife) and I were founding members of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance back in 2005. We got to know each other through that. I was working in D.C. on a number of renewable energy and sustainability issues. Then, I presently became introduced to Willie, and had the honor of being able to spend a lot of time around him. 

So how involved is he directly? Is it really mostly his family? 

Well, no. This is a culmination of Willie’s vision, and his whole life. I’m not sure any of us could have predicted how fast the dominoes would start falling once they started falling (as far as legalization). And You have the men like Willie who’s been out there getting arrested, standing up saying what’s right, and not wavering from that core. 

So do you think full-scale legalization will come soon? 

I would say all this boils down to math. You can take the dollars we’re spending (on prohibition), and go to arch conservatives who are against the ending of prohibition, and say, “Here’s a math equation. Here’s what we’re spending in drugs, here’s what we’re doing to destroy peoples lives. And with the ending of prohibition, we can transition from very energy intensive and chemical intensive crops to something much more energy-efficient and environmentally benign, and be creating more products.” What isn’t conservative about that equation? 


+68 # chapdrum 2015-03-26 14:09
The "arch conservatives" will reject this argument because they strongly imply (without overtly stating) that there's something immoral about cannabis that there isn't about alcohol.
They are more comfortable with a drug that promotes aggression than one that tempers it.

-22 # HowardMH 2015-03-27 08:59
Why isn't Willie in jail for drug possession, like the thousands of Black teens? Ohhh that's right he isn't black and has a lot of money.
+3 # reiverpacific 2015-03-27 16:41
Quoting HowardMH:
Why isn't Willie is jail for drug position, like the thousands of Black teens? Ohhh that's right he isn't black and has a lot of money.
"Drug position" (sic)?
Is that like head boss-man of internal body-searches -as in "Assume the position Bubba"?
At least he'd be singing' at it.
+15 # jussayin 2015-03-27 12:55
"They are more comfortable with a drug that promotes aggression than one that tempers it"

So true. After all, how will they get kids to fight wars after experiencing the effects of weed. It doesn't have the same effect as the roid-rage-induc ed robots they manufacture at boot camp where they learn to dehumanize the "enemy", obey even illegal orders without question and suppress any hint of empathy which might conflict with the "manly" tough guy image.

Not all, of course, but too many. And they take their cue from the likes of Rummy, Shrub and Cheney. Our culture of violent and aggressive sports, computer games, disregard for others and the planet all help to shape young minds to contribute to a dominant culture where we're supposed to take what we want, do what we want and care less about the consequences.

The super wealthy are invested in the military industrial propaganda complex and make way more money from war and aggression, controlling our lives and raping the planet. Altruism doesn't pay as well as sociopathy and there's no power high.

Weed would contribute to our economy, sustainability, health, and collective state of mind. It would have so many positive effects.

If we were to design a society which would produce the most sociopaths as possible, I'm not sure how much different it would be from what we have. Thus we have the attacks on education, science, the humanities, conservation, etc.

Thank goodness not everyone falls into the trap.

+68 # Ken Halt 2015-03-26 21:29
Go Willie! With your grass roots concerts you have a proven track record of caring about and standing up for We The People, you are an American hero apart from your stand on legalization of marijuana! Thank you for your activism and your inclusive, giant, soul! Legalization has been a long time coming, thank you for helping it along.

+26 # cordleycoit 2015-03-26 22:26
Free Willie

+42 # Rockster 2015-03-26 22:34
Moral courage And good ole common sense. Heck even Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin , Will Rogers and Mark Twain will all toast this man

+42 # dyannne 2015-03-26 23:03
Willie is his own man. Always has been. Looks like he always will be. Respect! Love the man, and his music.

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