FACT OR FICTION?: A Young Bill Murray Was Arrested for Carrying 10 Pounds of Marijuana

marijuanaAmong those who use recreational drugs, Bill Murray is something of an icon, having played several pot-smoking characters over the years, including the cannabis-loving sea captain Steve Zissou from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and noted drug user Hunter S. Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam.

So, was Bill Murray actually arrested for transporting Mary Jane, or was this story just an urban legend concocted by Murray’s pot-smoking fanbase?  Believe it or not, this story is actually true. Murray was arrested for this on his 20th birthday…not exactly the best way to celebrate such a happy occasion.

Here’s how it went down: on September 21st, 1970, Murray was trying to catch a flight to Denver. At the time, Murray was a pre-med student (yes, you read that right) at Regis University in Colorado. But Murray never made his flight back to school…partially because of a stupid joke.

While Murray is considered a gifted comedian today, at age 20, he still needed to hone his craft. Perhaps he had been smoking a bit before arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, because while waiting to board the plane, he joked to a fellow passenger that his suitcase contained two bombs…

Unfortunately for Murray, a ticket agent overheard his comment and alerted the authorities. Of course, Murray didn’t have “two bombs”, but his luggage did contain a staggering amount of grass. To be precise, Murray had five “bricks” of marijuana in his possession, which weighed a total of about 10 pounds. That much weed was worth $20,000 at the time, or about $117,000 today.

That said, even if Murray hadn’t been running his mouth, he would have been caught red-handed. Chicago’s finest vice detectives were already on the scene waiting for Murray, having gotten a tip about his suitcase full of drugs.  Suffice it to say, Murray was arrested and put on probation for five years.

During that time, his doctoral aspirations were put on hold. However, Regis did award him an honorary doctorate in 2007. (Student loans not necessary!) Incidentally, when he accepted the doctorate, he did so wearing pajama shorts and top, with a suit jacket over them.

Five years after his arrest, Murray was vaulted into the limelight when he was cast on Saturday Night Live, but it wasn’t the Saturday Night Live most know today.  Rather, he was cast on ABC’s Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.  The show was canceled after the first season, but Murray quickly found work as a replacement to Chevy Chase in NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which was just into its second season.  And the rest is comedy history.

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Bonus Fact:

  • The Illinois State Police report on Murray’s O’Hare arrest recorded Murray’s weight as 170 pounds in 1970. His skin was described as “ruddy”.
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  • Thanks for the interesting details on this story. Don’t forget Caddyshack, where Murray was hilarious as the pot-puffing greenskeeper on a vendetta against a gopher.

  • And how does the author know how much a ten pound brick of weed costs today??? Hmm???

  • The author doesn’t know. These prices are always inflated for some reason. If you go to any California dispensary an ounce costs around $250. That’s the actual street price of an ounce. There’s 16 ounces in a pound so one pound has a street price of around $4,000. So 10 pounds today has a street value of $40,000. Also, how did Bill Murray only get probation for trafficking that much across state lines, a federal crime? Must have snitched on his supplier….

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Jordan: The number quoted was not referring to what weed costs today, it was referring to inflation since. So $20,000 in 1970 is about $117,000 today (today meaning when the article was written. Today, as when this comment was written, it’s more like $120,000).

      • I can 100% guarantee that it was not worth $20,000 in 1970. I can get pounds for less money than that now. it would be worth 20,000-30,000 today.