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Almost busted in NC, but for reasons that I'd rather not disclose


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It hit the AP yesterday, so you may have heard: a handful of members from The Willie Nelson Family were cited before a concert in North Carolina. The charges were for misdemeanor possession of moonshine and marijuana. They were charged and released, but the concert was canceled due to pain in Willie Nelson’s hand from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Now, before you go thinking the reason for cancellation was merely an excuse, let me tell you a few things I personally know about CTS. Stress can cause intense flare-ups: for me it tightens the shoulders and neck. And of course it’s all connected. In fact, in severe CTS your shoulders and neck will sometimes hurt.

Willie did have surgery on his hand a few years back. However, from my own research I have learned that carpal tunnel surgery can be successful only at first. In some cases the symptoms do come back. Additionally, studies have shown marijuana use has benefits for those with neuropathic pain, like carpal tunnel syndrome….and medicinal marijuana is legal in the state of Hawaii, where Nelson has a home.

To the fans in North Carolina and the surrounding states, I want to express my sympathy. Some of you missed an evening of music with an American musical con, along with his closest family and friends. But all North Carolinians have had their tax dollars spent rather irresponsibly by law enforcement officials who were picking on an easy target. Even though he’s a decade younger, Willie is about as dangerous as my dear old grandma.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time The Willie Nelson Family has been the target of overzealous law enforcement. The Honeysuckle Rose IV was stopped and searched in Louisiana in 2006. At that time Willie, his sister Bobbie Nelson, and three of the crew were issued citations. Just last month near El Paso, they were stopped by Border Patrol. The bus was emptied and its inhabitants waited in the cold for hours while it was searched. In this writer’s opinion, that was a waste of the tax money of all Americans.

If nothing else, I hope publicity from these run-ins will garner attention for marijuana decriminalization. Prohibition didn’t work in the last century for alcohol and it doesn’t work now for cannabis. Not only is it futile, but enforcing laws against marijuana is extremely costly. Local and federal governments are spending money when they could instead be making more for our currently flailing economy through cannabis decriminalization combined with taxation.

The road is Willie’s true home and continued harassment will not force him to retire. I think if it came right down to it, he would simply choose to tour those 14 states where medicinal marijuana use is allowed. That might mobilize his fans in the other 36 states to do something. If Willie didn’t feel safe in my home state due to its marijuana laws, I would be inspired to do whatever it took to promote change in those laws. And I would also travel to see him in nearby states where he could safely perform, supporting their local economy rather than my own. We should all take the initiative now and start doing what is within our power to put an end to archaic laws that are doing more harm than good.

I haven’t yet addressed the moonshine. Personal possession of homemade alcohol is not illegal in all states, and where laws do exist it is mainly because it is “non-tax paid,†as has been the reported issue in this particular case. My theory is that the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) officers seized the moonshine because they were grasping at straws when their hopes of a bigger bust were thwarted. But they probably didn’t realize that Willie is a longtime advocate of green fuels. Did the ALE confiscate a quart jar of hooch that was really intended as ethanol biofuel for the van? (My tongue is firmly in cheek. Laugh if you can, or just ignore the attempt at a joke and keep reading).

God Bless Willie. I’m a young ‘un compared to him and can’t imagine being on the road, jamming nearly every night. It would wear me out fast, and I can’t image what picking a guitar would do to the CTS in my arms. I hope Willie Nelson and Family find time to relax and recuperate on their first 2010 road break, which starts today. And if marijuana helps cure their stress and pain, then far be it from me or anyone else to criticize their use of it.

For more information on marijuana law reform, and to contact the lawmakers in your state, please visit http://norml.org

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