On Bill Murray’s 20th birthday the young college student made a joke at Chicago’s O’Hare International airport, telling another passenger in line that he had two bombs in his luggage. (Classic early Murray–not just one bomb, of course, but two.) Murray didn’t have any explosives with him actually, but US marshals did find some weed. Make that ten pounds of weed. Yup, Bill Murray intended to fly from Chicago to Denver with a cache of marijuana in his bag that was valued at $20,000. That’s in 1970 money. Murray pleaded guilty–a fact verified by a state police arrest sheet that also attests that Murray had hazel eyes, brown hair and “ruddy” skin.
Possession of ten pounds of pot got Murray a misdemeanor charge for which he was sentenced to just five years probation–a fact hard to imagine today. Today, Bill Murray’s ten pounds of pot in Illinois would mean a class two felony punishable with between three and seven years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Murray would have been unable to pay the fine. If he had been sentenced to the full seven years in prison he would have missed his Saturday Night Live debut, and all that led up to it. Murray essentially would have starred in a very grim, lonely, real life version of Groundhog Day–living the same day over and over–but without Andie MacDowell, ice sculpting, or probably his sanity. It’s lucky for us he traveled a different road.