NPR- A federal inspection station on Interstate 10 in the West Texas desert earned the nickname “checkpoint of the stars” for all the entertainers who kept getting busted there. In the past six years, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Fiona Apple were all arrested for possession of marijuana.
These days, though, after a decision by a local lawman, everyone from personal pot smokers to medium-size marijuana traffickers can avoid jail.
The Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint was once the bane of pot smokers driving from Los Angeles to Texas. Green-suited federal agents and their uncanny drug dogs would make 20 to 30 busts a day.
“I had two little buds (of marijuana) wrapped up in my Dopp kit in my suitcase in the trunk of the car,” recalls Austin writer and filmmaker Al Reinert, who was busted at the checkpoint two years ago. “The Border Patrol guys never would have found it if the dogs hadn’t sniffed it out.”
After federal grants used to help pay for housing offenders arrested on drug charges dried up, Sheriff Arvin West of Hudspeth County, Texas, stopped taking any more cases from the checkpoint. He says they occupied two full-time deputies and one-fourth of the space in the county jail.i
After federal grants used to help pay for housing offenders arrested on drug charges dried up, Sheriff Arvin West of Hudspeth County, Texas, stopped taking any more cases from the checkpoint. He says they occupied two full-time deputies and one-fourth of the space in the county jail.
Here’s how it used to work: The Border Patrol would hold the suspect and the stash, the sheriff in the sleepy town of Sierra Blanca would send a deputy out to pick them up, then they’d be booked into the jail in Hudspeth County — an area larger than Connecticut filled with greasewood, cactus, humpbacked mountains and only 5,000 people.
Most of the cannabis holders were issued a citation, released and told to pay a $400 fine later — though many never paid up.
But for the past year, Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West has refused to take any more “checkpoint cases,” even those involving commercial quantities of marijuana worth thousands of dollars.
“I don’t have a problem whatsoever going out there and arresting them,” West says. “I just have a problem making my local taxpayers foot the bill for America’s problem. I’m not gonna do the federal government’s job.”