Hudspeth County Courthouse The grass is dead, so’s the tree, there’s no flag, and the skies are not cloudy all day!
I was born in Texas. Not that that means anything. We left before I could walk or talk or even open my eyes. My mother’s only request of our ramblin’ father was that she not give birth to a child in Arkansas, so we, with one-third in utero, moved to Abilene, and her other request was that we not stay in Texas, so as soon as I was breathing on my own we moved to Colorado where my brother was born. I don’t know if we passed through El Paso just 398 miles southwest of Abilene, but El Paso County is right next to Hudspeth County where Willie Nelson got busted for a piddlin’ amount of pot.
The Hudspeth County Attorney C.R. “Kit” Bramblett doesn’t believe that Willie is a criminal–in fact, he’s been a big fan of his for 50 years–and moreover, “Kit” also doesn’t believe that less than four ounces of marijuana in your vehicle should amount to anything more serious than “a traffic citation.” So he cut a deal for Willie, the same deal that he routinely gives to any average Joe Citizen–a $500 fine, and no need to make a court appearance, just “mail in the cashier’s check.”
“Kit,” along with the entire state of Texas, is running a scam, either unwillingly or unwittingly so, because although law enforcement is serving the “public interest” by issuing citations and collecting fines, those efforts have nothing to do with increasing public safety or reforming “criminal” behavior–such efforts serve no purpose other than to collect revenue. At least a speeding ticket, fine, license suspension or revocation allows for the possibility that in the future a reckless driver will use caution and drive more reasonably, thus improving highway safety.
But a fine to “enforce” prohibition and change “deviant” behavior? It didn’t work with alcohol in the past, and no one is expecting it to work with cannabis today in Hudspeth County–and the truth is in the telling of every “law-breaker” happily set free so long as the $500 fine is paid. Law enforcement certainly doesn’t want these people clogging up the jails, and it doesn’t want them off the highways either, because every time Willie or anybody else rolls down Interstate 10 there’s a chance to collect another $500. If Hudspeth County could regularly collect $500 from every smoker of the other weed–tobacco–then the county and probably the state of Texas could retire.
So power to Hudspeth County, I say, which is poorer than dirt and home to nothing more than cacti and rattlesnakes and 3,476 people, all of whom could use the extra cash. The county has little water and scant farmland, and the per capita income of $13,806 is half the national average, and 29.8% of the population lives below the poverty line, twice the national average. But what Hudspeth lacks in resources and jobs, it makes up for in highways–specifically “the intersection of Ranch Road 1111, Interstate Highway 10, and U.S. Highway 80, eighty miles southeast of El Paso” in Sierra Blanca (pop. 517) where the Hudspeth County Courthouse is located and Willie got busted at the lucrative check-point on Internstate 10. “Is that marijuana I smell?”
70,000 fines a year for 70,000 “pot citations” issued in Texas is a cool $35-million for counties across the state, rich or poor. And in case you don’t know, because impoverished people tend to get dumped on, after New York City was prohibited from dumping their garbage in the ocean, Hudspeth became the receiving station for 250 tons of their sewage sludge every week for more than a decade, and the stink could be smelled in Sierra Blanca three miles away. This deal was cut between a “mafia linked” Oklahoma company and Texas politicians, but that, of course, is a whole ‘nother kind of scam. So let’s all smile on Hudspeth County for opting for a less odiferous scam of their own choosing.