It may be hard to believe, but Willie Nelson has never made an appearance at SXSW until yesterday. The weeklong festival, which began on Monday, not only went digital for the first time, but it marked Nelson’s inaugural keynote speech in the festival’s history.

Nelson spoke about his music, his experiences with COVID-19 and how much of an impact this year has had on him. He also made the time to discuss his experiences with cannabis and his life long support for the herb’s decriminalization.

Willie Nelson Has Officially Stopped Smoking Marijuana
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Stringer/Getty Images

“We have made a lot of progress through the years since the first time I was busted for marijuana,” Nelson said. “A lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon and realized marijuana is medicinal, it can help you in a lot of ways. A lot of states out there have already legalized it medicinally and also recreationally, but more states are on the way.”

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Nelson talked about the importance of activism, and how it gives people something to believe in and fight for. “It’s important to have those valuable things to keep you going.”

The multi-Grammy award winner has a long history with marijuana and even has his own label, Willie’s Reserve, which has been in circulation since 2015 and continues to expand.

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In 2019, Nelson’s stoner image was tarnished after he said he was no longer smoking weed due to having abused his lungs for many years. His son, Lukas Nelson, tweeted that while Willie was more careful with his lungs for health reasons, there were many ways in which cannabis could be consumed besides smoking. Said Nelson’s spokeswoman: “Willie does what he wants, when he wants, when it comes to smoking.”

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