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Tom Petty, Musician, Cannabis Advocate and Humanitarian, Dies at 66

Maureen Meehan

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Tom Petty, Musician, Cannabis Advocate and Humanitarian, Dies at 66

The world of music and humanity lost a talented, soulful and dynamic person on Monday when Tom Petty died at 66 of cardiac arrest.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty,” wrote his longtime manager Tony Dimitriades.

Tom Petty rose to iconic status after a long career of hits that started in the 1970s with his band The Heartbreakers. In the 1980s, the group hit super-stardom with their rebellious singles like “I Won’t Back Down,” “Breakdown” and “Learning to Fly.”

Petty was known for his guitar riffs, raw, nasal vocals and polished lyrics in songs like “Refugee,” “Free Fallin’” and “American Girl.”

Reacting to the news of Petty’s death, Bob Dylan said in a statement to Rolling Stone: “It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, when they were described by organizers as “the quintessential American individualists,” capturing the voice of the American everyman.

Petty was also an outspoken critic of the U.S.’s hypocritical cannabis laws.

“I don’t have a prescription card, but I’m certain I’ve smoked some medical marijuana, yeah. It’s everywhere,” Petty told Rolling Stone in 2013.

“I don’t smoke as much pot as I did at one point in my life. 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.” Petty said in the Rolling Stone interview. “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. But it is safer than alcohol.”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were awarded a High Times Doobie Award in 2011 for Best Rock Artists.

Petty called weed his recreational vice of choice for the last 50 years.

“I’m mostly just a reefer guy,” Petty told Men’s Journal in 2015. “I’ve had a pipeline of marijuana since 1967…It’s a musical drug.”

So, in honor of a great musician and cannabis advocate, light one up today for Tom Petty, “just a reefer guy.”

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