Willie Nelson’s Arrest Count Revealed
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube
Willie Nelson is recognized for several aspects: his iconic contributions to classic country music, his signature long hair often styled in braids, and his notable penchant for marijuana consumption.
The musician’s embrace of the potent herb traces back to 1981 when a swimming incident in Hawaii resulted in a collapsed lung. Promptly after this event, Nelson discarded all his Chesterfield cigarettes and replaced them with twenty joints, as detailed in his 2021 memoir, Willie Nelson’s Letters to America.
Nelson has gone as far as attributing marijuana to saving his life, stating in a 2019 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, “I used to smoke two or three packs of cigarettes a day, and drink whatever there was there to drink.”
Despite the purported improvement in his physical well-being, Nelson’s marijuana use has entangled him in a considerable amount of legal complications. Here are the particulars concerning the country musician’s internationally flavored criminal record related to cannabis.
Willie faced weed-related charges five times
Willie Nelson faced his first marijuana charge in Dallas, Texas, in 1974—five years before he fully transitioned from cigarettes to joints, as highlighted by Wide Open Country. In 1977, the music icon ventured to the Bahamas, where authorities discovered cannabis in his jeans, leading to his imprisonment.
Allegedly, he managed to sneak a six-pack of beer into his jail cell and later required hospitalization for drunkenness upon his release a few hours later. Although he was subsequently banned from the country, the charges against him were eventually dropped.
Despite maintaining a low profile throughout the ’80s, Nelson encountered legal trouble again in 1994. During a routine traffic stop after an all-night poker game in Waco, Texas, police found a joint in his ashtray.
In 2006, he was pulled over once more while en route to the funeral of former Texas Governor Ann Richards. Authorities discovered 1.5 pounds of marijuana and three ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms on his tour bus, leading to a six-month probationary sentence.
The last time he was busted was in 2010
Willie encountered his most recent drug-related incident in 2010 when the country singer was apprehended near the Mexican border in Sierra Blanca, Texas, by the famously strict Hudspeth County Sheriff, Arvin West. According to Wide Open Country, Sheriff West discovered six ounces of marijuana on Nelson’s tour bus.
Reflecting on the incident during an interview with Rolling Stone the subsequent year, Nelson revealed that he had forgotten about “this little bag of weed” that led to his arrest.
“I had been in California hanging out for a while, and my bus had come out to pick me up because we had a couple of tour dates to do, I had forgotten that there was this little bag of weed on the bus that had been in the back there for weeks when I had been gone…” the country icon explained.
The dogs brought by the police immediately sniffed out the pot. The sheriff jailed Nelson for a brief period before the musician secured his release by posting a $2,500 bail.
Willie’s special treatment controversy
Controversy surrounded the country legend due to preferential treatment in his 2010 drug bust case. During discussions about Nelson’s sentence, prosecutor Kit Bramblett made a notorious jest, suggesting he would dismiss the charges if Nelson sang one of his songs in court. To avoid a two-year jail term, Nelson opted to pay a $500 fine, as reported by Wide Open Country.
Subsequently, Judge Becky Dean-Walker, prior to her retirement in 2012, rejected Nelson’s earlier agreement with the prosecution and reopened the case, which remains unresolved a decade later.
To some extent, Nelson understood the reason of the judge. In Willie Nelson’s Letters to America, he wrote, “Every time we got busted, something good came out of it”. He then went on:
“Across our nation, there was more awareness and then resistance to long and unjust jail sentences. Not everyone gets to sing their way out of possessing a few joints. Over the years, Black Americans have been four times more likely to get arrested than their white neighbors. White or Black, those sentences destroy lives and families, and it costs tax dollars to lock people up for nonviolent crimes … I believe that within a decade, medicinal and recreational marijuana will be legal in all fifty states.”