The Best Little Checkpoint in Texas

Getting busted at the infamous Sierra Blanca inspection station plunged me into a strange and twisted reality.

almost seven ounces at the checkpoint weighed less than half that on the jailhouse scales. This reduced the charge against him to a misdemeanor and made Willie eligible for one of those $527 paraphernalia tickets, which is how the case was eventually disposed.

Two years later, when I asked West about this discrepancy between his scales and the feds’, he shrugged. “They don’t always get things right at that checkpoint,” he said. “They probably weighed the container along with the dope.” This sounded just plausible enough to make me smile, and West smiled back. Then he offered to show me the evidence room.

The evidence room of the Hudspeth County jail is a pothead’s treasure trove. There are stacks and stacks of bags and sacks and big cartons and small white boxes, all full of marijuana and crammed to the ceiling of a cinder-block vault the size of a four-car garage. Each bag and sack and carton and box is stamped with a case number and sealed with evidence tape, but the skunky aroma of all that pot is irrepressible, overwhelming, positively intoxicating. According to West, when he showed this room to Willie, the pothead king exclaimed, “Whoa! Y’all got a lotta shit here. You don’t need mine, give it back.”

I laughed because I knew exactly how Willie had felt. Somewhere in that room were my own perfect buds. Up near the top of one stack I noticed a box with case number 10-2034 stenciled on the side, next to which someone had scrawled “Willy.” I couldn’t help wondering what the contents might weigh.

When I asked West how he felt about his celebrated decision to release Willie, he shook his head. “The last thing in this world I want to be is a pothead hero,” he said. “But the laws we’ve got now don’t work. Something’s gotta change.”

Al Reinert is a contributing editor to  Texas Monthly and a documentary filmmaker whose most recent movie is An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story.


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