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Op-Ed: Nathaniel Rateliff on Why His Band is Joining the Weed Biz

We met Willie, Annie and their lovely family when we were invited to play our first Farm Aid in 2016. Lukas Nelson, Willie and Annie’s son, invited us onto Willie’s bus one morning before a Farm Aid press conference. For us, that welcome and open conversation kicked off years of respect and a treasured friendship.

We’ve played Farm Aid every year since, and we consider it an honor to pay tribute to America’s farmers, including our former neighbors growing soybeans and corn back in Missouri — and our current neighbors growing wheat and weed in and around Denver.

Through the past few years now, we have shared stages and laughs with the Nelsons. Now we’re especially honored to work with Willie, Annie and their team on our collaborative cannabis project. Cannabis has improved our quality of life and helped us be our best selves. It has helped us soldier through the brutal ups and downs that life has to offer us all.

We are grateful to Willie’s Reserve and their vetted network of cannabis farmers in each state, and we respect the brand’s commitment to these growers — including the team at AJ’s Craft Cannabis in Boone, Colorado, where all of the flower for our initial vape cartridges is sourced.

As the natural collaboration evolved, we took the decision to partner very seriously. The two of us were born and raised in a small town in Missouri. Growing up in middle America, we witnessed a lot of addiction issues to harmful substances including alcohol, methamphetamine and later opioids. We began to see even then, and now we know, how legal cannabis can offer a much healthier alternative.

We both consume for a variety of reasons: boosting our creativity and relaxation, helping with sleep, and easing the aches and pains that are synonymous with life on the road.

Marijuana Deals Near You

Touring the world has perhaps given us a unique perspective, and it’s been bizarre traversing from states offering adult-use cannabis sales to states with prohibition still in place — all in the course of a couple hours. The time on the road forces us to not only think about patient access to cannabis, but also how these regulated sales can bolster communities with tax revenues that fuel municipal growth, public education and programs to support people experiencing homelessness and other disadvantaged populations. This hits especially close to our hearts, as the nonprofit we founded in 2017, The Marigold Project, directly supports nonprofit organizations working on issues of economic and social justice.

While the cannabis industry has a ways to go in creating a just and fair environment for all people — and while the various legal markets from California to Canada to Colorado and elsewhere have a long way to go in expunging the records of those with low-level cannabis offenses — we’ve appreciated the thoughtful, inclusive work being done by our friends at Willie’s Reserve.

Our hope is that these cannabis products will provide enjoyment for many, as well as relief to those patients who need it most. We will advocate for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive industry, along with bringing restorative justice for those who continue to be imprisoned for activities that are no longer crimes. Also, we hope to keep moving the conversation forward with those whose minds might not yet be open to the proven benefits of cannabis.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats are now partners with the Willie's Reserve cannabis brand. The Night Sweats headline concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre this week, on Wednesday, August 21, and Thursday, August 22.

Westword occasionally runs opinion pieces and essays on matters of interest to residents of metro Denver. Have one you'd like to share? Email editorial@westword.com.

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