Tom Petty was a man who represented a great many of things to great many of people. Like Prince or David Bowie before him, Petty represented a certain type of totemic figure, which is why it causes such anguish and loss over his passing.
Included in the many sides of Petty was that of small-time marijuana advocate. He was a known consumer of the herb and would often discuss his stance in interviews. He would even include references — overt and otherwise — into songs.
In honor of his passing, we decided to remember Tom Petty’s stances on marijuana.
On Weed Vs. Alcohol
“I don’t have a prescription card, but I’m certain I’ve smoked some medical marijuana, yeah. It’s everywhere. I don’t smoke as much pot as I did at one point in my life,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “But I think the cat’s out of the bag, and it’s gonna be legalized. If you’re gonna sell liquor, you have to sell pot. Liquor’s worse for you. I don’t think pot’s addictive — I never felt like I had to have it, you know. Actually, no, I take that back [laughs]. But it is safer than alcohol.”
On Marijuana And Music
“I’m mostly just a reefer guy,” he said in a recent Men’s Journal article. “It’s a musical drug.” When asked about a possible prescription, he told the reporter, “I’ve had a pipeline of marijuana since 1967.”
On Weed And Feelings
From Petty’s iconic hit “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” he sings:
But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint
And turn the radio loud, I’m too alone to be proud
You don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me
On Cannabis And Police Officers
“Don’t Pull Me Over” is Tom Petty’s version of a protest song. Dipping heavily into reggae, the video features some heavy marijuana association imagery. It also is considered one of Petty’s worst songs of his storied career, mostly because it feels so out of place juxtaposed to the rest of his catalog.
However, he made his feelings on marijuana’s status as an illegal substance rather explicit:
“Don’t pull me over let me pass on by
Don’t pull me over
Should be legalized
Don’t pull me over mister policeman”
On Mary Jane And “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
As the chorus of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” goes:
Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin’ in
And I’m tired of this town again.”
While Petty himself was reticent on declaring if “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” was a reference to marijuana or a relationship he had, guitarist Mike Campbell offered this point in an oft-cited interview: “In the verse there is still the thing about an Indiana girl on an Indiana night. Just when it gets to the chorus he had the presence of mind to give it a deeper meaning. My take on it is it can be whatever you want it to be. A lot of people think it’s a drug reference and if that’s what you want to think, it very well could be, but it could also just be a goodbye love song.”