When you hear the phrase "Queen vs. James Marshall Hendrix," you might think someone's comparing psychedelic guitarist Jimi Hendrix to Freddie Mercury's seminal rock band. But that's actually the title of the court case brought before Hendrix in December 1969 after he was caught carrying hash and heroin while on tour in Canada.
On May 3, 1969, Hendrix was arrested at Pearson (then Toronto International Airport) after a troupe of mounties - who were waiting for the rocker's plane to arrive from Detroit - found narcotics and paraphernalia in his luggage. When the case went to trial in December of that year, Hendrix's lawyer successfully argued that the contraband was a gift from a fan, and Hendrix didn't know he was carrying illegal drugs.
After his acquittal, Hendrix told reporters, "Canada has given me the best Christmas present I ever had."
And that's not the only funny moment from this bizarre showdown between the cannabis culture icon and the Canadian justice system. Here are some other highlights, based on court transcripts reprinted in rock biographer Steven Roby's new book Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix (2016)
Hendrix defines hash cookies for the court
When Hendrix described what sorts of gifts fans gave to the band, the prosecutor (John Malone) had to stop and ask for a crash course in marijuana edibles.
Hendrix: [Sometimes] we would get packages of marijuana, which would be either in cellophane or tinfoil, or maybe in little cookie packs or a cigarette box or something, and they might be rolled up in cigarette paper and we receive hashish sometimes in blocks or hash cookies or cakes.
Malone: Hash cookies?
Malone: What do you mean by that?
Hendrix: Hashish that has been crumbled up and mixed in with a batter to make some cookies.
Jimi's cannabis birthday cake
The prosecutor was very cannabis curious that day. After discussing cookies, the conversation turned to other edibles -- including a special Irish pastry.
Malone: And it [hash] comes to you in the form of cookies?
Hendrix: That's right. Sometimes cakes.
Malone: Cakes as well?
Hendrix: Yes, I had a hash cake for my birthday one time in Ireland.
Hendrix's psychedelic repertoire
At one point, the prosecutor outed himself as a square by asking an overly vague question about Hendrix's experience with narcotics.
Malone: When did you begin using drugs, Mr. Hendrix?
Hendrix: Which ones do you mean?
Misidentifying Exhibit 3
Hendrix is one of the biggest icons in cannabis culture, but according to the court transcript, he was no expert of marijuana paraphernalia. Or maybe he was just playing dumb when asked about the loaded hash pipe found in his luggage. Either way, his answer stumped the prosecution.
Malone: "[We] are speaking of the tube; you say you got it and you put it in your bag. Is that right?
Malone: Well, can you suggest to me any possible use for that - ordinary use?
Hendrix: A pea-shooter. Maybe?
Malone: A pea-shooter?
Malone: Yes, I suppose it could be used for that, but would you normally put pea-shooters in your bag?
Hendrix: I normally put gifts in my bag.
The Hippie Martyr
As you'd expect, the trial of one of rock's biggest stars gained a lot of attention in the press. And two counterculture journalists treated Hendrix almost like a psychedelic martyr. Here's how Ritchie Yorke and Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone connected the Hendrix trial to the persecution of hippies in Canada.
"Toronto authorities have been getting tough on the free-living hippie community of Yorkeville, more or less Toronto's version of the Haight-Ashbury, in recent months, and there is the possibility that Hendrix may have been caught in the squeeze.
"The populace of Toronto are a very conservative lot, and tend to look with suspicion upon anybody who looks and dresses a little different from themselves. Hendrix looks a lot different. Make an example of this freaky, frizzy-haired psychedelic spade (if you go by this reasoning) and maybe you can scare the freaks out of Yorkeville."
At the time, Yorke and Fong-Torres didn't like Hendrix's chances of avoiding jail.
"The best guess is that a conviction would put Hendrix behind bars for from two to seven years," they wrote. "Canadian courts don't screw around."
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