Willie Nelson has long been one of the most vocal proponents for legalizing marijuana, but in a new interview, the country icon says he's given up smoking pot himself.

The 86-year-old entertainer is such a staunch advocate for the health and psychological benefits of marijuana that he has even launched his own cannabis line, Willie's Reserve. But he tells San Antonio news station KSAT that he has had to give up smoking pot because of damage to his lungs. Nelson has suffered breathing issues in recent years, including emphysema, and he attributes that to long-term smoking that began long before his marijuana use.

“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," Nelson admits.

“I started smoking cedar bark, went from that to cigarettes to whatever. And that almost killed me," Nelson says, adding, “I don’t smoke anymore — take better care of myself."

That doesn't mean that Nelson has stopped using marijuana. In a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone, he said that he mostly vapes or uses edibles these days. According to Nelson, replacing his previous habits of cigarettes and alcohol with marijuana may have actually extended his life.

“I wouldn’t be alive. It saved my life, really," he says. "I wouldn’t have lived 85 years if I’d have kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old. I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too — out there drunk, running around.”

Despite his breathing issues and multiple re-scheduled shows in recent years, Nelson still keeps a very active recording and touring schedule. He brushes off press reports and fan speculation that his bouts with emphysema and pneumonia have placed him near death.

“I don’t give a [expletive]," Nelson states. "I’m here, I’m glad to be here."

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