Willie Nelson has long been an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. As previously mentioned on this blog, Nelson was recently arrested for drug possession. His tour bus was stopped and searched at the Sierra Blanca border checkpoint. Police found six ounces of marijuana and Nelson admitted that the drugs belonged to him. He was arrested and originally charged with felony drug possession, which carries a possible two-year prison sentence.
Since the arrest, new developments have emerged. Nelson was found to have been in possession of four ounces of the drug, a misdemeanor. The charges carry up to a year in prison with a substantial fine.
Drug law in Texas is strict and no one is sure what to expect when it comes time for Nelson to face the music. Will he have to do time for his crime? The news is filled with stories of celebrity justice, where the rich and famous purportedly get what seems like preferential treatment. It would not be a surprise if Texas makes an example of Nelson, handing out the strongest possible punishment as a reminder that Texas takes drug crime seriously.
But Nelson is 77 years old. What would be sending him to prison prove? Forcing him behind bars for four ounces of marijuana could give critics of Texas sentencing laws a stronger voice. Texas has some of the most aggressive drug laws in the U.S., and often the punishment for violating these laws is disproportionate to the crime alleged. Even those who are arrested for possession of marijuana (small amounts have been legalized in many parts of the U.S.) face possible jail time.
There may also be problems with the way the police handled the situation. What reasons did they have for stopping the bus? Did police have consent to do the search? Nelson may be able to prove that police overstepped their bounds, which would mean that prosecutors have no case.
Nelson's take on the situation? Band members say he remains in good spirits - and he's also trying to help others in the spirit of the holiday season: he's asked fans to make donations in his name to the arresting agency's Christmas fund drive, the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office Gifts for Children program.