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1978: Keith Richards convicted for heroin possession

The Story

A Toronto courtroom is filled to the rafters with Rolling Stones fans eager to observe the fate of Keith Richards. Richards was busted for heroin possession after igniting suspicion by spending a few hours too many in an airplane washroom before landing in Toronto. But since he's not likely to steal for his habit, which is the court's main concern with heroin charges, his punishment is light. The guitarist's sentence is to perform a charity concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 24, 1978
Reporter: David Bazay
Duration: 1:31

Did You know?

• Critics were quick to say Richards received special treatment after his drug bust. In the House of Commons, former prime minister John Diefenbaker called the sentence "preposterous and more than lenient." But Health and Welfare statistics showed that Richards's sentence was average. In the previous year, about half of Canadian heroin convictions were also jail-free.

• Born on Dec. 18, 1943 in Dartford, England, Richards is a founding member and principal guitarist of the Rolling Stones.

• Richards reportedly quit heroin after this incident and has credited Toronto with saving his life. On his web site, Richards says "I have lived my life in my own way, and I am here because I've taken the trouble to find out who I am."

• In "Rock's 50 Greatest Meltdowns," Rolling Stone magazine reported that Richards was caught with 22 grams of heroin and five grams of cocaine and that he requested some drugs back from the police until he could find a new supply.

• For the charity concert, Richards formed the band The New Barbarians, with Ron Wood, Stanley Clarke, Ian McLagan and saxophonist Bobby Keys.


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