Willie Nelson's Cannabis Brand is Ready To Celebrate the Red-Headed Stranger's 90th Birthday | Westword

Willie Nelson's Other Child, His Cannabis Brand, Is Ready To Celebrate His 90th Birthday

Willie Nelson's ninetieth birthday takes place nine days after 4/20, and his cannabis company wants to celebrate.
Willie Nelson's cannabis brand, Willie's Reserve, is based in Colorado.
Willie Nelson's cannabis brand, Willie's Reserve, is based in Colorado. Jacqueline Collins
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Willie Nelson is on the verge of turning ninety years old, but his love for the plant is stronger than ever, according to the folks behind his cannabis brand, Willie's Reserve.

One of the few celebrity-backed cannabis brands that hasn't fizzled out after a loud launch, Willie's Reserve constantly updates itself. Since debuting in 2016, the company has continued to release new lines of flower, pre-rolls, vaping cartridges and CBD products — and the Colorado-based operation doesn't plan to slow down as it moves into states newer to legalization. But according to Josh Richman, vice president of marketing, sales and retail for Willie's Reserve, seven years in the cannabis game comes with plenty of challenges.

As Willie's Reserve prepares to celebrate the red-headed stranger's birthday, just nine days after 4/20, we caught up with Richman to learn more about the brand's future and how Nelson likes his stash nowadays.

Westword: Willie Nelson is about to celebrate his ninetieth birthday, and he's still a very active musician. How active is he with Willie's Reserve nowadays?

Josh Richman: Willie and the entire Nelson family are still very active with Willie’s Reserve. Just recently, Willie helped us prepare to celebrate his upcoming ninetieth birthday by signing literally dozens of guitars, posters and books to give away to fans as part of our “Level 90 – Gifts From Willie” birthday program. We have always had input from Willie and Annie Nelson on the product line and brand, and will continue to do so.

What does Willie Nelson think of cannabis's evolution throughout the years? I imagine that today's flower, extracts, edibles and consumption methods are quite different from what he was used to.

Being the world’s most trusted and longest-running cannabis activist, Willie and his family have shared their optimism for continued expanding legality of cannabis state by state, but know we still have a long way to go. We had all hoped to have seen national legalization or more progress in Texas, Willie’s home state, by now. States and voters have proven that regulated legal access to cannabis can work.

When it comes to weed, Willie’s tried it all at one point or another. One of the best benefits of today's choices is that there are options for where you are in mood or phase of life. Willie has shared that he smokes less and snacks more these days, and is glad for the options.

How have the last few years been for Willie's Reserve? More states and new markets have opened up, but prices of cannabis have dropped across the country.

We’re doing our best to stay above the fray. As for all cannabis companies, the past eighteen months have been difficult, and we’ve had to focus hard on our business to adapt to the price changes. The good news is that the brand remains strong, and demand for Willie's Reserve is high in many regions, including throughout Colorado. We recently launched in Massachusetts and Missouri to very warm welcomes. The fact that we’ve been able to expand under the current circumstances is testament to the trust people have in Willie and in us to make sure they get the level of quality they expect from Willie’s Reserve regardless of the state in which they partake.

How big of a part does Colorado still play in Willie's Reserve's current activity, and how big will it be in your plans going forward?

Colorado is our home state, and it will continue to play a huge role in the future. Even with the current challenges for cannabis businesses in the state, we know that Colorado cannabis lovers are some of the most discerning and passionate in the country. If you can succeed here in cannabis, you truly can succeed anywhere.

You work with a large variety of growers across the country. Where do Colorado's flower and extracts rank among other states?

The competition has certainly increased since we launched in 2016, but Colorado flower is still strong, and subjectively, we still think it ranks in the top three states in the country for cannabis consistency and output. There are a few key differences we’ve seen since launching. For instance, more grows are delivering a zero- or negative-emissions grow model. In addition — and I think this is because of lessons learned the past few years — the best growers are leaning into “craft cannabis,” with purposely smaller harvests and controlled distribution. The truly great harvests are harder to source, because, rightfully, there is high demand and less available. While it makes things a bit challenging at times, I think this is actually better for the industry after years of a “grow and expand at all cost” mentality.

What does Willie's Reserve look for in a strain? Name recognition? Good growers? Trend popularity? What all goes into the curation process?

In Colorado, we work with a short list of trusted growers, including our own small grow (12 Peaks Farms) that provide consistently great flower. We’ve worked with them long enough to build solid business relationships so we can offer a product assortment that is familiar but not static.

Plenty of celebrity-backed cannabis brands have come and gone, but Willie's Reserve has stuck around. What do you think most of these celebrity brands are missing after their initial launch, and how does Willie's Reserve stay competitive as wholesale growers gain more of a foothold in Colorado?

Since day one, we have been fortunate to have backing and support of the most trusted name in cannabis. Willie and the Nelson family have been actively involved with Willie’s Reserve since launch. The cannabis culture is a way of life for him. And he has always operated under a simple philosophy: My stash is your stash. We wouldn’t call Willie’s Reserve a celebrity brand, but if we must, that level of involvement and authenticity is not typical for celebrity brands. It’s not something you can just create, and we understand how blessed we are to work with Willie.

To celebrate Willie Nelson's ninetieth birthday, Willie's Reserve is holding sweepstakes throughout the year. Grand prizes include tickets to Luck Reunion ’24, autographed memorabilia and Willie’s Remedy CBD coffee and sparkling water. Sign up for the giveaways at williesreserve.com/willie-nelsons-90th-birthday.
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