Progression isn’t just a blues term for Laith Al-Saadi—he’s thinking about the future of marijuana in his home state.
Ann Arbor, Michigan has an enduring reputation for being progressive on pot. From the famed 1971 freedom rally for poet and activist John Sinclair, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for getting caught with two joints, to the annual pro-legalization Hash Bash, Ann Arbor residents have upheld civil rights and the freedom to use cannabis throughout the decades-long insanity of the War on Drugs.
Out of that liberal bastion of sanity, critical thought and creativity comes Laith Al-Saadi. Al-Saadi rose to national prominence in 2016 as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, but he’s been making a name for himself as a blues musician for years, opening shows for B.B. King, Johnny Winter, the Yardbirds and many others, and headlining at clubs across the country.
Al-Saadi doesn’t venerate any musician in particular as a weed icon. “The thing about [cannabis] is, it makes music better in general,” he tells HIGH TIMES. “All music becomes weed music. Honestly, I play music because of the Beatles. Everybody’s into weed.”
Al-Saadi is a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, which made him the perfect candidate to close out the Cannabis Cup last August in Clio, Michigan. An appreciative crowd of happy stoners gathered to hear him on a sunny Sunday summer’s eve, and we caught up with him after his set to ask him a few questions.
How does it feel to play for a crowd that shares your appreciation for Mary Jane?
You know, man, it’s pretty awesome. It’s really nice as a musician to play in an atmosphere where people are able to get high.
Tell us how you got involved in the local cannabis community.
I think [cannabis] is one of the most benign and beneficial plants around. Growing up, I had a lot of friends whose parents smoked pot and stuff. I just saw that there were plenty of intellectual and progressive people, that were doing a lot for the community, who were pot users.
I believe that it’s much less harmful than alcohol on every level—and it’s beneficial. I believe a lot of the music that I play wouldn’t even exist without cannabis. And I think it’s also the first line of freedom. It’s what we do with our bodies. I understand not being able to smoke and drive a car or do whatever, but I think that it’s crazy that you can’t grow a plant and be able to smoke it in your house and not get in trouble for that.
We have to preserve the right for the individual to be able to cultivate themselves and have a level where it’s not taxed, where it can just be a plant that we grow and we can smoke.
Does cannabis play a part in your creative process?
Sure. I think it’s great. It gives different perspective on things. It can totally make you look at anything in a different light, which is very important for an artist. It also frees the mind—I think Louis Armstrong said that jazz probably wouldn’t exist without cannabis, and I have to agree.