Willie Nelson Charged With Misdemeanor, Escapes Jail

Country legend will pay a fine if convicted in last week's pot bust.

Dec. 5, 2010— -- It appears the Red Headed Stranger will ride on again.

Country music legend Willie Nelson was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in Texas this week, following the discovery of what was first thought to be six ounces of marijuana aboard his tour bus last weekend, according to TMZ.com.

Nelson's tour bus pulled into a routine checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas -- approximately 85 miles east of El Paso -- around 9 a.m. on Nov. 26. When an officer noticed a suspicious odor coming from the bus, a search turned up the marijuana, police said.

Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West told the El Paso Times that Nelson, 77, claimed that the marijuana was his.

Officials originally thought that Nelson could face far more serious felony charges -- and even serve time for the offense -- given that six ounces were discovered. Once weighed, the amount was determined to be less than four ounces, so Nelson received the misdemeanor charge and if convicted will be fined, not jailed.

According to police patrolman Bill Brooks, a sheriff from Hudspeth County was contacted and Nelson was among three people arrested at the scene last weekend. Nelson was held briefly and paid a $2,500 bond before being released.

Mickey Raphael, Nelson's longtime harmonica player, spoke with Rolling Stone magazine regarding the incident and Nelson's release late last week, telling the magazine that "he said he feels great -- he lost six ounces."

"It's kind of surprising, but I mean we treat him like anybody else," West told the El Paso Times. "He could get 180 days in county jail, which if he does, I'm going to make him cook and clean. He can wear the stripy uniforms just like the other ones do."

At the time Nelson was traveling from California to his ranch in Austin, Texas. Because he was released, the arrest did not affect his tour.

Elaine Schock, Nelson's spokeswoman, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press at the time of his arrest.

Nelson, a staunch advocate of decriminalization of marijuana, has had his share of drug-related brushes with the law.

In Louisiana in 2006, 1.5 pounds of marijuana and three ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms were found on his bus. Nelson pleaded guilty in that case and each was sentenced to a $1,024 fine and six months probation.

Back in 1995 Nelson was also arrested in Waco, Texas, and police officers said they saw a joint in his car's ashtray. Nelson had pulled off the road to sleep after an all night poker game. At the time he also confessed that there was small amount of marijuana on the car's floorboard.

Nelson, a Texas native who was born in the tiny town of Abbott, has been an icon of the country music scene since the early 1970s, when he rose to prominence in the outlaw country movement of the time with albums like "Red Headed Stranger" and classic tracks like "On the Road Again" and a famous cover of Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."

Nelson is a co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) advisory board, and has worked for years for marijuana legalization. He has recorded and produced radio and television commercials for the cause, and in 2005 hosted the Willie Nelson & NORML Benefit Golf Tournament at his personal golf course in Spicewood, Texas.