I went to Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday concert and left with a lot of weed wisdom

Willie Nelson.
Willie Nelson turned 90 on Saturday.
(Associated Press)

From the moment the two-day, star-studded “Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90” birthday bash at the Hollywood Bowl was announced, it promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cross-generational cannabis crowd to convene and pay tribute to a longtime advocate of the herb.

Organizers seemed to recognize this too, with plant-friendly performers including Snoop Dogg and Billy Strings on the bill (the latter having just released a weed-centric duet with Nelson called “California Sober”) and not one but two different commemorative rolling trays on offer in the merch tents.

The confluence of weed-friendly folks — both on stage and off — at the historic open-air venue (which, having celebrated its centennial last year, is barely a decade older than Nelson) seemed like the perfect opportunity to check in with pot people who flocked to the Bowl for the occasion. As a Times reporter focused on cannabis, I wanted to find out what they were firing up for the evening, what their go-to concert enhancements were and what nuggets of weed wisdom they’d learned over the years.


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It’s worth noting at the outset that technically cannabis smoking isn’t permitted at the venue. (Press representatives recently told The Times that it’s because the Hollywood Bowl is L.A. County park land and therefore technically public — not private — property.)

In-bound security checks on the first night of the two-night event seemed unconcerned about weeding out combustible plant material — at least based on the personal experience of the people I polled Saturday afternoon and evening. However, I mention that here because no one I spoke to as I wandered the Bowl was willing to share their last name or show their face in a photograph. They all had a vested interest in being able to enjoy the second night of the two-night extravaganza without being singled out for scrutiny. Also, more than a few cited the ongoing cannabis stigma as a reason for only giving their first names. (Not to mention that while legal in California, weed remains illegal at the federal level.)

Over the course of the evening, something became apparent to me: Although Nelson himself has reportedly stopped puffing pot, part of his legacy for the next 90 years and no doubt beyond will always be about bringing the cannabis community together. Consider the torch — and the joint — passed to the next generation(s).

Now meet several of the colorful characters I crossed paths with on Saturday and take in some nuggets of weed wisdom culled from their collective 277-plus years of cannabis consumption. (It could actually be 300 years’ worth or more, but 74-year-old Tish from Austin, Texas, wasn’t sure of how long she’d been a fan of the herb.)

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Lives in: Yakima, Wash.

Age: 66

Cannabis consumer since: “I was 15.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Blue Dream [cultivar]. Because it makes me feel happy and energetic and relaxed at the same time. It’s a beautiful way to feel when you listen to music.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “One, make sure you have the right people, the right time and the right place. Otherwise it can be awkward and uncomfortable [when you get high] and you don’t want that. Number two, I think, is to get high for the right reasons.”



Lives in: Castle Rock, Colo.

Age: 56

Cannabis consumer since: “Just a few years. I took a 20-year break. Prior to that since 15.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Gorilla Bomb [cultivar] flower in a bowl.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Indica means ‘in the couch’ — that helps me remember [the effect].”


Lives in: Scranton, Pa.

Age: 64

Cannabis consumer since: “Since 13 or 14.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Pre-rolls. I got a pocket full of pre-rolls right here. We stopped at the MedMen near LAX and got an ounce of Turbo Diesel [cultivar] right after we got off the plane.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “A friend with weed is a friend indeed.”


Two people wearing Willie Nelson concert T-shirts.
Jeffrey, left, with Allison, at the Willie Nelson birthday concert on Saturday. Neither would give their last names or be photographed.
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

Lives: North of Sacramento

Age: “I’m nearing the erogenous zone of the late 40s, early 50s.”

Cannabis consumer since: “My mom was involved with the Weathermen so in utero probably, but the first joint I smoked I was probably 6.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Hydration and caffeine.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “I have a real good friend who coined the phrase years ago: ‘Sativas for the sunlight, and indicas for my dreams,’ so I sort of use that as a rubric.”


Lives in: Culver City

Age: 37

Cannabis consumer since: “I was a teenager — 15.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “These days? Vapes and joints.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Around concerts, I think the biggest wisdom that I have learned is don’t overdo it. We were at a Phish show once where I ate way too strong of an edible and honestly just overdid it. You can ruin this thing that you put a lot of time and money and love into. The best [concerts] are the ones where you walk away with the memories, not without.”


Lives in: Austin, Texas

Age: 74

Cannabis consumer since: “Who knows?”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Trying to get backstage.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Know your dosage. I ate this [THC-infused] candy bar once and I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to eat the whole thing. The road was purple. For hours, I kept asking, ‘Can you see the road?’”

A no smoking sign at the Hollywood Bowl.
Smoking is technically not permitted at the Hollywood Bowl.
(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)


Lives in: Minneapolis

Age: 46

Cannabis consumer: “For 30 years.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Usually indica flower — but I have a vape pen tonight.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Weed gets you through times of no money better than money gets you through times of no weed.”


Lives in: Georgia

Age: 45

Cannabis consumer: “For 20 years.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Any kind of marijuana, but vapes are a lot easier. Right now I’m using a Pax Era with a concentrate pod.”

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Just be yourself, you know? Enjoy it. Go with it. Don’t think too hard.”


The view of two men in plaid shirts from the back looking at the Hollywood Bowl.
Bret, left, says his favorite piece of weed wisdom is: “Just dip your toe in the pool and go from there.”
(Booth Moore)

Lives in: Venice

Age: 51

Cannabis consumer since: “Oh my God, this is embarrassing. Mom, are you listening? I have to say the first time was in seventh grade. I made a bong out of a jelly jar and just went to town.”

Favorite concert enhancement: “Probably weed and mushrooms. I use a little one-hitter for the weed — kind of like the one you have.” (Bret pointed to my narrow, metal cigarette-style one-hitter.)

Nugget of weed wisdom: “Just dip your toe in the pool and go from there.”