This Infamous Border Checkpoint is Done With Small-Time Drug Busts

Sep 14, 2015

From Texas Standard:

It's been called the checkpoint of the stars: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple have all been snagged at the Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint.

Musicians and other celebrities have been booked and charged for marijuana possession by Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West. But West now seems to be saying his days of cracking down on every joint and baggie may be over.

NPR Southwest Correspondent John Burnett just returned to Austin from West Texas, where he checked out that checkpoint.

"I wasn't holding. They passed me right through," Burnett says, for the record.

But what if Burnett had been carrying a personal amount of marijuana?

"The federal government would have confiscated it from me – they would have wagged their finger at me, and they would have sent me down the road," he says. "What's changed in the past year is that the Sheriff of Hudspeth County, Arvin West, has said 'I'm not taking anymore federal cases.'"

The checkpoint is responsible for more than a dozen federal arrests on marijuana charges per day. But the reason West isn't picking up those cases anymore, Burnett says, is purely economic.

Hear more at Texas Standard.