Wiseman Willie, Padre Nelson, the potheaded stranger — he's known by many names, but this country legend and social activist has remained steadfast in his singular devotion to Mary Jane for nearly 60 years.
He's been busted. He's been badgered. But he's never backed down. And by God, everyone's favorite pothead prophet will keep on spreadin' the good word about the sweet leaf till the day he takes that last, lovely drag.
These are Willie Nelson's ten weed commandments.
She is the herb, thy love. Have you met Mary Jane? She's tall. She's sweet. She's fine. She's all-natural. And she smells like heaven. Willie smooches her almost every day. And there's nothing sinful about it. "I think people need to be educated about the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If he put it here and he wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?" Preach, padre!
Thou shalt have no others before her. As a young buck, Willie was a booze hound, a pill head, and a chain smoker. But once he felt the warm, comforting embrace of Mary Jane, he gave up all those harmful habits. "In the early years, I drank all the time. Mainly before pot," he confessed to High Times in 2005. "Up until then, I was into whiskey and uppers." But sweet Mary gave him a chance to change. "I was killing myself with cigarettes, and I knew I was really putting myself in danger with drinking so much, so somewhere along the way I decided, 'Wait a minute! You know, do what you can do.'" That's when Willie made his choice. He decided to worship the queen of all weeds. And only her.
Thou shalt make graven images of the sweet leaf upon your album covers. Any marijuana enthusiast with a guitar will eventually write a love song to Mary Jane. Maybe even an entire album of love songs to Mary Jane. And in 2005, Willie finally completed his weed opus. He packed a bag, grabbed some ganja, headed for Cali, hooked up with some Jamaican friends, and recorded a reggae record called Countryman as a tribute to the Caribbean island's noble weed farmers. The album cover bore a giant green pot leaf on a blazing red-and-yellow background. Well, unless you bought the censored Walmart version. That thing's got a blasphemous palm tree.
Thou shalt not toke too much. Now listen, cowboy — you may love her, but don't go foolin' yourself that ol' Mary Jane is an entirely harmless mistress. Sure, that little lady will ease your glaucoma. But if you heedlessly and needlessly partake of her psychoactive pleasures, she can be wrathful, gunking up your respiratory system. As Willie admitted to High Times in 2010: "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." And there's no toker on Earth (not even Willie) who can adequately croon "Take It to the Line" with two wheezing lungs full of phlegm.
Remember the 4/20 to keep it smoky. Work hard. Sing loud. Play guitar. Tickle the ivories. Do what you gotta do. But when the clock or calender hits that magic number, take a break, invite some friends, light her up, crank Willie's "Crazy" to 11, roll another joint, close the windows tight, and hotbox your tour bus in honor of the most blessed herb.
Honor thy duty to Mary Jane. If you wanna be a weed activist, you've got to be psychoactive. Just take Willie — he's been the advisory co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for more than 25 years. Then, after getting busted for a few ounces by cops in Texas a few years ago, the ol' potheaded stranger kick-started the Teapot Party, a loosely organized political entity dedicated to fighting for the right of every American to freely smooch sweet Mary whenever and wherever they want. Of course, the movement is also about promoting politicians who support pot reform — and getting potheads to stop sleeping so much. "I know there's a lot of the young candidates out there," Padre Nelson told High Times after his arrest in the Lone Star State. "They need to know that maybe there's a way to get some of the, you know, guys like us off our lazy ass and go vote."
Thou shalt experiment, man. The path to becoming a true pot prophet is all about discovery. And Wiseman Willie's personal pilgrimage began at a very early age. "I started smoking something when I was 4," he reminisced, chatting with High Times. "Cedar bark. Grapevines. Cotton leaves. Coffee leaves. I even tried Black Drop one time... an old laxative in powder form." These days, though, the 79-year-old isn't messing 'round with THC-free crops or over-the-counter tokeables. After nearly eight decades of sparkin' and smokin', Nelson has found the holy grail of herb — a smooth, seedless, finely ground mixture of several cannabis strains that he calls "Willie Weed." The lesson: Stay curious, potheads.
Thou shalt share your stash. As Padre Nelson would attest, there's nothing cool about hoarding your supply. In fact, the most righteous thing a devotee of Mary Jane can do is get a big circle burn goin'. Be generous with your brothers and sisters. It might even change their lives. After all, a sticky gift from a special friend is exactly how Padre Nelson joined the flock. In the late '50s, a Fort Worth musician named Fred Lockwood and his brother Ace handed him a joint. And the rest is history. "[Later] they gave me a itty bitty little snuff can full of pot one time," Willie said in 2005. It was a revelation. "All of a sudden: 'Oh yeah — that's what that is.'"
Thou shalt harvest thine own crop. Now the potheaded stranger certainly wouldn't want to lead the American people astray. So he's not suggesting that y'all dive headfirst into the illegal cultivation of cannabis. He's just saying Mary Jane is not only a spiritually enlightening lady but also a killer cash crop. "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 [hemp and marijuana]... It would be a big help to the small family farmer."
Thou shalt legalize the weed. "It's already been proven," the pot prophet writes in his latest book, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, "that taxing and regulating marijuana makes more sense than sending young people to prison for smoking a God-given herb that has never proven fatal to anybody."
For Wiseman Willie, there's just no negotiating. The American people need to wholeheartedly embrace Mary Jane. "I would endorse it anywhere, in any state, any time," he told High Times a couple of years ago. "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.
"I think it's the future. Eventually we'll get it legalized and we'll be like Amsterdam. I can't wait."