August 16, 2013
As they walk through the front door, visitors to the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office in Sierra Blanca, Texas, get punched by the overpowering odor of marijuana.
During a recent week, the sheriff of this broke and scruffy high-desert town stored about 5,000 pounds of pot, contraband seized at the nearby U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint from the parade of road trippers, occasional celebrities and other outsiders ordered to stop there as they buzz through West Texas.
The inspection station stands on a sun-scorched stretch of Interstate 10, about 85 miles southeast of El Paso below the Quitman Mountains, and it has put Sierra Blanca on the map as the “checkpoint to the stars.” Among those caught have been Willie Nelson, Snoop Lion, Fiona Apple and Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger.
“We’d live in Mayberry if it wasn’t for that checkpoint,” says Mike Doyal, the county judge and a former chief deputy of the sheriff’s office. “We’d just wait for the town drunk to show up once in a while.”