45 Years Ago: Routine Traffic Stop Turns Into Jerry Garcia Drug Bust
On March 27, 1973, Jerry Garcia was pulled over for what should have been a routine speeding ticket in New Jersey. The traffic stop turned into a full-on nightmare for the Grateful Dead leader when police searched his car, resulting in a charge for drug possession.
He and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter had a day off while on tour, so they decided to drive to the next date in Springfield, N.J. Two hours into their leisurely drive, they were pulled over by New Jersey State Trooper Richard Procahino as Garcia was doing 71 mph in a 60 zone.
As Garcia opened up his travel bag to get his driver’s license, the officer noticed a plainly visible bag of pot. Though Garcia also had cocaine residue on him, the state trooper did not discover that. Hunter made a couple of phone calls and John Scher, an old friend of Garcia’s, came to his rescue with the $1,000 bail. Garcia escaped relatively unscathed, sentenced to a year of probation for possession. “Where does it say in the Scriptures you can’t get high or raise your consciousness?” he later asked People magazine rhetorically.
Drug arrests were nothing new to Garcia or the Dead. It had happened many times dating back to 1967. Their infamous New Orleans bust in 1970 was immortalized in the song “Truckin’.”
Garcia’s use of hard drugs began to escalate while the band were on tour in the early ’70s; first in 1973 with cocaine, and later in 1975, when Garcia took to heroin. Garcia once said, “As far as I’m concerned, drugs are not the problem. Other stuff is the problem.”
Former Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully saw it differently, telling author Robert Greenfield, “Once it became a real habit, he wouldn’t look after himself, and he started burning up the bedroom and the hotel rooms and so on. His nods got to be very scary.”