Where will Willie get his weed?
We can only speculate why Willie Nelson doesn’t come to Canada more often. Is it because he’s 84 years old with 72 albums and dozens of classic songs to his name – or because he allegedly smokes pot and doesn’t want to get busted at the border? He’s certainly not going to bring his stash of Special Willie’s Reserve on his tour bus, so of course he’d have to score as soon as he gets into Canada. What a hassle. Can you even get Willie’s Special Reserve in Canada? Next to the Pink Kush. Man, can’t wait till next year.
For now, it’s just speculation with an obvious answer: Where will Willie get his weed when he comes to play at the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose on Friday night?
“No comment,” says festival producer Mike Anderson.
Of course he has to say that. Not legal yet, mm’kay?
Edmonton has hosted many a purported dope-smoking American artist in the past. Rihanna’s entourage reportedly toked their brains out in 2008, filling the backstage area of Rexall Place with giant clouds of fragrant blue smoke, while cops held their noses and looked the other way. Snoop Dogg has been to Edmonton more than Willie – and like Willie has his own brand of marijuana. The singer from Nickelback once asked people to pass him lit joints on stage. The Black Crowes are also said to be pot smokers, as is Lady Gaga, who was just in Edmonton, so many more. It might be easier to list the touring stars who don’t smoke up: Garth Brooks.
These celebrity tokers aren’t stupid. They know they have to travel clean over international borders. There are millions of dollars riding on them getting across. In 2013, Rihanna’s 10-bus convoy was detained for several hours at the border between Toronto and Detroit because “a small amount of marijuana” was found (the singer wasn’t on board at the time) – and you can bet that never happened again. A crew member on a tour bus for the rapper Nelly was arrested in 2012 for having a duffel bag full of weed (plus heroin and a handgun), and the star disavowed all knowledge or responsibility of it.
It’s just not worth the trouble, and so much easier for American musicians to arrange a hook up with their designated “Weed Runner” in Canada.
One prominent Canadian musician, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he’d never carry drugs over the border – but scoring is easy when you have connections everywhere you’ve played before. If it’s too much bother, “there’s always tequila,” he says. “I refuse to let my need for weed get to such a degree that I’ll put myself in jeopardy to find some.” Besides, he adds, “A lot of times you don’t have to ask. People come up and offer. I can’t imagine Willie Nelson ever having trouble finding someone who’s going to want to get him high in a foreign land.”
Andrew White, a longtime area tour manager and live sound engineer, says scoring dope for traveling rock stars is much easier than it used to be. He says, “These days only thing I’ve seen or experienced is that a guy on touring crew recognizes a local from previous visit, makes small talk then says, ‘hey, know where we can get some green?’ Local guy asks around his brethren, or someone already knows a guy who fulfills those requests, guy is called, money and weed are exchanged. Not really needed to do in advance lately. Stuff is everywhere.”
In the old days, when you could go to jail for simple possession, the job of drug procurement usually fell to tour managers or local concert promoters. There have been bands that actually put pot on their concert rider, along with the free beer and sandwich trays.
Decades ago, the late Kirby was an Edmonton promoter who would sometimes be asked to score dope for visiting performers. On this subject in 2013, a year before she died of cancer, she said, “You just try to accommodate the artist to elicit a better performance, and you do whatever you can. If they need a special drum, you get it for then. If they want some pot, you give it to them. You just want a good show. On the other hand,” she added, “it is illegal.”
Kirby’s daughter Jade remembers, “I know my mom was always way too paranoid for that. She wasn’t going to get busted in any sort of way. So she would get a hookup from somebody she knew. I remember a time she couldn’t find anybody so she got me to get her some weed for one of her artists, letting me know of course to keep it very hush-hush, and also letting me know I wouldn’t be getting paid back. The weed was part of the artist’s rider, essentially.”
If only Kirby had lived to see the day pot would be legalized.
Of course few traveling musicians want to go on the record about this, or even admit they imbibe. The editor of High Times magazine once said that “most rock bands smoke pot – how up front they want to be about it is another matter.” See, it’s not just the Criminal Code, but the more important “Code of the Road.” What happens on the road … stays on Instagram.
Weed photo, second from top, from Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party