Willie Nelson's New York Mag Cover is Absolutely Perfect

November 1st 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Musician and activist Willie Nelson has been in the marijuana business for long enough to understand the effect that major corporations will have on pot if and when the substance is legalized by the federal government. The commercialization of cannabis by large companies is opposed by many enthusiasts, many of whom appreciate the current small business model of state-approved dispensaries and don't want to see the industry taken over by big corporations.

Neslon has a plan to combat the influence of Big Pot, and he lays it out in a recent New York Magazine feature.

NYMag cover

Activists are worried that the legal pot industry will only help the rich get richer.

Thirty years ago, Nelson and a number of other artists started Farm Aid, an annual concert designed to raise money for family farmers in the U.S. and support the local food movement. The benefit concert continues, but Nelson has expanded his own activist interests, pushing for the responsible cultivation and marketing of marijuana as legalization spreads across the country.

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"Even the most ardent advocates of legalization have been troubled by the rise of Big Pot," New York Magazine reported. "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."


Willie Nelson wants to have a trusted brand in the marijuana industry.

In an effort to develop a cannabis brand that would represent the ideal values of the industry going forward, Nelson introduced a strain of pot that is grown and distributed by independent businesses that adhere to a set of safety standards that ensure high-quality, pesticide-free pot. It's called "Willie's Reserve," and its production follows a small business model, contrasting those of other big names in the budding cannabis market.

Nelson and other legalization advocates worry that big corporations will increasingly buy out independent marijuana businesses, guiding the market down a path that values profit over quality production. One company that is investing heavily in the marijuana industry, Diego Pellicer Worldwide, is currently leasing out retail space to local dispensaries, but plans to acquire that property as soon as pot is federally legalized.

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That kind of business practice is exactly what the people who drafted Washington state's recreational marijuana legalization bill hoped to avoid. The bill's author, the ACLU's Alison Holcomb, said that they wanted the law to empower local businesses by offering opportunities "to participate in the market."

Cheryl Shuman

"When we did our quantitative research, one of the things that glaringly jumped out is that consumers want this," Andrew Davison, the man who first approached Nelson with the idea of starting a marijuana brand, said. "They want to know where the product comes from, they want to know it’s clean and cared for, they want to know it was local grown and that it has a connection to their community. It just so happens that it fits perfectly with the regulatory requirement, and, more importantly, it fits with Willie."

h/t New York Magazine