Country Music’s Complicated Relationship with Weed in 10 Songs

Within country music, songs about marijuana have been battles over ideas and values

country's complicated relationship with weed marijuana music toby keith johnny cash merle hagggard kacey musgraves willie nelson
Illustration by Steven Fiche

    This 4/20, we’re celebrating the best intersections of weed and pop culture. After reading through this list about country music’s complicated relationship with marijuana, be sure to also check out the Top 50 Stoner Albums to Give You a Contact High and 25 Stoner Movies That’ll Leave you (Half) Baked.

    If you listen to country music, you’ll have no difficulty finding songs about beer or trucks or hunting or The South or whiskey or workin’ hard or hardly workin’ or fishing or tractors or cheating or gambling or patriotism or honky tonk badonkadonks. But should you want to listen to a country song that references marijuana, traditionally you had to search a little harder.

    Unlike rock ‘n roll or hip-hop, weed-smoking in country music has been mostly relegated to the genre’s margins, reflecting broader society’s reefer madness over the years. Only 12% of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana in 1969, and that number never hovered above 32% until the mid-2000s, according to Pew Research Group. But the general feeling toward pot seems to have flipped in recent years, and even country’s traditional gatekeepers have looked the other way as songs about dope enjoyed mainstream success.


    Of course, country music mythology is filled with renegades, from outlaw stars like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard to modern-day iconoclasts Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, and Chris Stapleton. Unsurprisingly, those renegades have been all too happy to push back against the social mores of the Nashville establishment and forge their own path — a path that, more often than not, smells quite dank.

    So let’s raise a joint to those cannabis country songs that trade red, white, and blue for red-eyed and baked. Through the song list below, you can see how marijuana in country music went from taboo to toast of the town.  — Spencer Dukoff

    Editor’s Note: For a less complicated experience, check out the 4/20 sale on the Consequence Shop, where all CBD, Delta-8, and THC-O products and accessories are buy one, get one 25% off through April 30th, 2023. You can also pre-order the new GWAR Bud of Gods line, New Dank Ages, featuring all sorts of CBD treats and merch.

    Merle Haggard – “Okie From Muskogee” (1969)

    If you had to pick just one song to serve as the anthem for social conservatism, it would be “Okie From Muskogee.” Written in response to nationwide protests against the Vietnam War, the breezy us vs. them tune is a (respectful) middle finger to the dope-smokin’ longhairs tearing apart the fabric of Haggard’s America, populated by football-loving, Old Glory-flying, White Lightning-drinking, self-described “squares.”


    The first line is, “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” with that small Oklahoma town standing in for all the little small towns scattered across the country who were not so sure about this whole “peace and love” thing. “Okie From Muskogee” was a huge hit, topping Billboard’s Hot Country Singles Chart, where it remained for four weeks, and earning Country Music Association’s Single of the Year for 1970. It’s a useful signal for understanding how cannabis was viewed by the country music establishment and its mainstream audience: Haggard links marijuana use to a lack of patriotism, disrespect for authority, and emasculation — Okies from Muskogee do not wear “beads and Roman sandals,” but they do wear “manly leather boots”. You can draw a straight line from “Okie From Muskogee” to Kid Rock using cans of Bud Light for target practice in order to own the libs. — S. Dukoff.