Pubdate: Fri, 10 Aug 2007
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2007 Star-Telegram Operating, Ltd.
Author: Jay Root
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


AUSTIN -- It's been decades since Willie Nelson smoked that first 
joint in Fort Worth, but -- Ain't it funny how time slips away? -- 
he's still singing the praises of pot.

On Friday, the country music legend headlines Austin Freedom Fest, a 
benefit concert for four pro-marijuana groups, including the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Nelson co-chairs 
NORML's advisory board.

"Marijuana is like sex," the Hill Country crooner wrote in his 1988 
biography, Willie. "If I don't do it every day I get a headache."

Nelson first smoked marijuana in 1954 in Fort Worth, where he spent 
his formative years in and out of the rough-and-tumble honky-tonks 
off Jacksboro Highway. More than 20 years later, Nelson admits, he 
smoked grass on the White House roof when Jimmy Carter was president.

"Marijuana should be recognized for what it is, as a medicine, an 
herb that grows in the ground," Nelson wrote. "If you need it, use 
it. People who smoke it and get real paranoid don't need it."

The concert at the Backyard in Austin will bring together a variety 
of musicians and activists, all united by the goal of easing 
restrictions on marijuana. Nelson will be joined on stage by the 
Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Also performing at the concert 
are Paula Nelson, Jackie "The Joke Man" Martling and Carolyn Wonderland.

Mark Stepnoski, a pro-legalization activist and former Cowboys 
player, is helping to organize the event. General admission tickets 
were going for $52 and reserved seats could be had for $62 as of 
Thursday. VIP tickets are sold out.

Proceeds from the event will be split evenly among NORML, the 
Marijuana Policy Project, the Wo/Man's Alliance for Medical Marijuana 
and Green Aid, a legal defense fund, organizers said.

Nelson did not respond to a request to discuss the concert, but Rob 
Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said the 
funds will be used for legalization efforts around the country. At 
least a dozen states allow people to use marijuana to relieve pain or 
treat other ailments, and Kampia said his group is helping to push 
ballot initiatives making medical marijuana legal in several other states.

"The goal is to end marijuana prohibition in the U.S.," Kampia said.

The redheaded singer is no stranger to marijuana laws. Nelson was 
charged with possessing a small amount of pot in 1994 after he was 
found asleep in his car near Waco with part of a hand-rolled 
cigarette in the ashtray. The charges were dropped after a judge 
ruled that evidence had been illegally seized. Nelson and his tour 
manager were fined and placed on probation this year after they 
pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession in Louisiana -- 
stemming from a tour bus inspection last year on Interstate 10.

Federal authorities continue to try to stop the drug's distribution. 
In recent days they raided what were described as the largest 
marijuana plantations in North Texas history.

Given that vices like tobacco and alcohol are legal, Nelson has said 
he doesn't understand all the fuss over adults' use of a natural weed.

"I would be in favor of legalizing marijuana entirely, but I don't 
like to think of a government having the power to legalize something 
like an herb," he wrote in his autobiography. "An herb belongs to us 
people to use as we need, and it is no government's business."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom