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Paul McCartney’s been arrested on numerous occasions. Not because of roadside antics, nor because of alcohol. Rather, his record is almost entirely comprised of cannabis-related arrests, most of which occurred in countries with draconian drug laws. While all four members of The Beatles smoked and enjoyed weed at certain phases of their careers — and you can thank Bob Dylan for introducing them to the plant — McCartney may be The Beatle who loved marijuana the most.
Through the years, McCartney’s late wife Linda Eastman was pretty much his pot partner-in-crime. Eastman liked cannabis as much as McCartney did, and only stopped consuming once she began battling cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. McCartney’s second wife, Heather Mills, insisted that The Beatle stop smoking weed, and even gave him an ultimatum that led to a short-lived hiatus. By the time McCartney married his current wife, Nancy Shevell, he was more or less done with regular pot consumption. That said, he smoked on and off throughout his adult life, and finally quit at the ripe age of 69 to set a better example for his grandchildren and his then-eight-year-old daughter, Beatrice.
Should he have any regrets? No. Sustained marijuana use was good to the songwriter, considering his achievements. And damn did he achieve quite a lot while weed was in the picture. At the same time, while cannabis consumption certainly didn’t hurt Paul’s career, cannabis criminalization did complicate things for the icon now and then. To wit, let’s take a look back at McCartney’s most notable pot busts over the years, which illustrate how prohibition messes with even the most celebrated smokers.
August 10, 1972
While touring in Sweden — known for its relative intolerance of drugs — McCartney and his wife Linda were arrested for possession of a minor amount of cannabis (“a few dimebags”) while on the way back to their hotel from a Wings performance in Gothenburg. McCartney was fined £1,000 ($1,304) plus other charges amounting to about $2,000. McCartney said at the time that Swedish authorities were “far too serious” about simple cannabis possession. It would definitely not be the first time Paul and Linda were caught with weed together.
March 8, 1973
About a year after his Sweden bust, McCartney was caught again, but in this particular case, he got off with a slap on the wrist. At McCartney’s farm in Campbelltown, Scotland, the pop star was caught growing a patch of sinsemilla cannabis plants on his property. In his defense, he told the court that he mistakenly planted seeds that a fan sent him, not knowing what type of plant it was. Somehow the court bought his defense, minimized his sentence, and he got off with a $240 fine. Immediately after the court hearing, McCartney was somewhat unapologetic about his horticulturist hobby when discussing it with a local BBC journalist.
March 2, 1975
In this incidence, McCartney and his wife were driving through Los Angeles, California in their ’74 Lincoln Continental. McCartney ran a red light and was immediately pulled over. Cops smelled something skunky emanating from the car, searched, and found a small amount of cannabis. Because Linda wasn’t driving, she generously took the fall and said the weed was hers. Paul got away without being arrested. Linda’s charge was dropped soon after.
January 16, 1980
Despite Japan being notorious for Beatlemania, McCartney’s popularity wasn’t enough to avoid jail time for drug charges in the country. In what was arguably his most infamous weed-related arrest, McCartney was caught smuggling 218 grams (7.7 ounces!) of “dynamite weed” into Japan at the Narita International Airport. He was held in the Narcotics Control Office, and ended being locked up in a 4 x 8-foot cell in a Tokyo jail for nine days. Initially, a spokesperson said that the arrest set McCartney back $420,000, as he was forced to immediately cancel 11 sold-out tour dates. While McCartney was threatened with up to eight years in prison, he was eventually deported on January 25 (his second deportation) and escaped without a trial. He was released on the condition that he sign an affidavit stating that he no longer smoked dope. He, of course, lied on the affidavit.
January 17, 1984
Almost four years to the day after being arrested in Japan, McCartney and his wife were arrested in Barbados after they bought some weed from a dealer on the beach. McCartney was fined $200, and narrowly avoided up to three months in jail. Undeterred about casual pot use, Linda was fined $105 on January 24, only eight days later, on another cannabis charge. Linda was with McCartney on their way back to the United Kingdom from their vacation in Barbados, and was carrying five grams of weed that they apparently scored during the holiday.
Honorable Mention: March 12, 1969
While this arrest didn’t involve McCartney, its inclusion is due to the fact that the raid occurred on same the day McCartney married his sweetheart, Linda Eastman. It was perhaps the most notorious Beatles-related drug bust. Police — led by known-dirty cop Sgt. Norman “Nobby” Pilcher — raided George Harrison’s home. Pilcher was known for his unquenchable zeal for targeting rock stars like Donovan, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, as well as for his tendency to frame culprits. Whether planted or not, Pilcher found a “considerable” amount of hashish stored in a shoe — a detail that Harrison unequivocally denied. “I keep my socks in the sock drawer and stash in the stash box,” he freely admitted. “It’s not mine.” Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd were arrested, and McCartney’s special day was ruined because his fellow bandmate couldn’t attend the wedding. A year earlier, on October 18, 1968, Pilcher raided Ringo Starr’s flat at 34 Montagu Square in London for drugs while John Lennon and Yoko Ono were staying there. That, too, was allegedly staged and the drugs were planted. For both busts, tabloid news sources focused more on the band members’ wardrobes than the arrest details.
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