The Texas county attorney who’s letting musician Willie Nelson plea his marijuana charge down to a fee and a song told Raw Story in an exclusive interview that he wishes authorities could just drop the criminal penalties for pot altogether and make getting busted more like getting a parking ticket.
“That makes sense to me,” Hudspeth County Attorney C.R. “Kit” Bramblett said, throwing his support to a bill in the Texas legislature that would eliminate possible jail time for marijuana possession if the amount is less than four ounces.
In a lengthy telephone conversation, Bramblett, 78, said that when the legendary singer/songwriter swept through his county in November of last year and got busted, he received an unambiguous message from the judge: Get Willie in here.
County Judge Becky Dean Walker, he said, refused to allow Nelson a plea-by-mail, which is typical for misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in some Texas counties.
“She said to me: ‘You ain’t letting him plead by mail, ’cause I’m not accepting that,’”‘ Bramblett explained. “I said to her, ‘Why?’ And she said, ”Cause I want to meet Willie Nelson.’”
Judge Walker was unavailable for comment.
Bramblett added that he’d admired Nelson even before he earned fame as a musician. In his early 20′s, Bramblett said, he’d known of Nelson and loved his music.
“He’s been my favorite artist all my life,” he told Raw Story. “Somewhere in my past, I have a picture of Willie Nelson when he was 20 or 21 years old in Nashville. He had on a zoot suit and a flat-top haircut. [...] I don’t know, I’ve looked for that picture the last 15, 20 years but I can’t find it. I was going to get him to autograph it for me.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, the elder attorney told Raw Story that he’d never tried marijuana and has only been drunk twice, “and both times on accident.”
The first time he encountered people smoking marijuana, he said, was in 1972, at a concert in a public park near San Antonio.
“My wife was like, ‘What’s that smelly stuff around here,’” he said. “Well I look up and everyone in the damn park was smoking marijuana!”
Bramblett added that he knew it was pot because the cigarettes people were puffing on “not too professional looking cigarettes.” It wasn’t until he was in his mid-40s that he first encountered a significant marijuana prosecution, as a criminal defense attorney in west Texas.
“They had it in bundles, about a thousand pounds,” Bramblett recalled, adding that the last time he’d seen a large quantity of marijuana it was at Texas A&M in the 1950s, where a bunch of agriculture students had been cultivating hemp.
“Not a one of ‘em knew that if you smoked the goddamn thing you could get high,” he said with a laugh.
As for the drug war, Bramblett said he doesn’t believe drugs should be legalized. “Especially like, heroin, cocaine, things like that I don’t think we should let out there.”
But when it comes to marijuana, he said, it’s time to change our thinking.
Bramblett specifically said he was supportive of an effort to decriminalize pot in Texas, lowering the penalty for possessing a small amount from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C, removing the mandatory arrest and replacing it with a fine of up to $500.
As for Willie, Bramblett insisted that he’s actually not getting a better deal than anyone else.
“I usually recommend a fee, if they plead guilty,” he said. “A fee and court costs, which they can just mail in.”
Over 70,000 people across Texas were caught with under four ounces of pot in 2009, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“I may not like it, but can’t no one can stop people from smoking it no matter how hard you try,” he said. “Besides, people on that dang weed aren’t as senseless as on whiskey, I can tell you that much.”
The Texas legislature, currently controlled by a Republican supermajority, was considering a bill that aimed to reduce the criminal penalties for marijuana. On those arrests alone, NORMAL claims, the state could save up to $400 million each year.
A separate bill before Texas legislators would legalize marijuana for medical uses.
Both proposals have been repeatedly shot down by Republicans.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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