Willie Nelson has been smoking weed for as long as anyone can remember. Nelson told Rolling Stone back in April he stays high “pretty much all the time.”

That is until now. Nelson has kicked his weed habit cold turkey and cites his health as the number one reason.

The country music icon told KSAT-TV, “I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful.” The 86-year-old Nelson, who suffers from emphysema, says, “I don’t smoke anymore — [I] take better care of myself.”

Willie Nelson was an advocate for the health benefits of marijuana long before it became fashionable. He has for years promoted the economic benefits of legalizing and taxing the sale of pot.

Nelson admits to Rolling Stone, however, that the long-term effects of smoking so much weed are really unknown at this point. “I’m kind of the canary in the mine, if people are wondering what happens if you smoke that sh-- a long time,” he said. “You know, if I start jerking or shaking or something, don’t give me no more weed. But as long as I’m all right...”

Nelson says marijuana is "not a killer drug" and defends his heavy use of weed over the years referring to the drug as "a medicine." Nelson does have lung-related health issues, however, and cites that as the main reason he's kicked the habit.

As states rush to legalize or decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, it is clear that not enough is known about its long-term use of the drug. The American Addiction Centers say pot can be problematic for some users: "Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs on the market today. While it may have the impression of being a harmless, fun substance, it is still a drug that changes what goes on in the mind, sometimes with significant consequences. The long-term effects on the brain and body make marijuana a dangerous drug to a lot of people, leading to negative outcomes that don’t show until years later."

Pot has a lot of defenders who will argue that weed is safer than alcohol and tobacco. That may or may not be true, but one thing we know is that any foreign substance introduced to the lungs on a regular basis is not good for them. Ask Willie.

Willie Nelson says that while he believes pot is not a killer drug, it has had an impact on his lungs and therefore he won't use it any longer. Makes sense to me.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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