The Reason Keith Richards Was Arrested In Canada

The iconic Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards is generally accepted among the greatest guitarists of all time. His signature guitar playing style and his successful songwriting partnership with Mick Jagger have become one of the defining characteristics of the Stones. Besides his great music career, Richards has definitely had some wild and weird moments throughout his entire life. Especially, his illicit drug use starting in the late 1960s and the early 1970s caused him a lot of trouble. He was charged five times on drug-related issues, the first being in 1967, then twice in 1973, in 1977, and lastly in 1978.

He has had countless near-death experiences over the years due to his hedonistic tendencies, particularly during the 1970s. It wasn’t just Richards as the other Rolling Stones members were also deeply involved in drug use so the band members have had several stories with drug encounters. Yet, what Richards has gone through cannot be compared to the experiences of any of them. One of the famous incidents that the guitarist lived through was in Canada in 1977, which attracted great media attention at the time. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly happened there.

How Was Keith Richards Arrested In Canada?

Keith Richards had gotten into trouble many times due to his drug addiction but it would be fair to say that this one topped them all. Back in February 1977, Richards was in Toronto to perform with the Rolling Stones for their upcoming concert album, ‘Love You Live.’ He was staying in a Toronto hotel when he was raided by the police in the morning. Canadian police found nearly an ounce of heroin and other substances in his hotel room, which led him to be immediately arrested for possession of them.

He was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. That offense could’ve resulted in a prison sentence for seven years under the laws at the time but later on, the charges against him were reduced, and then he was allowed to go back to the United States with a special medical visa to receive treatment of heroin addiction. Many fans gathered around the court during his case and they demanded the musician to be released.

Although he was found guilty, he didn’t get any prison sentence, but it was the most serious criminal charge of his life. The court concluded that he didn’t bring drugs into the country as he purchased them while in Canada. Hence, he received a suspended sentence. Later on, his community service sentenced him to play a benefit concert for the blind after a blind fan testified on his behalf. Richards remained active with the Stones during this period but it certainly had a major impact on his life.

What Did Keith Richards Say About The Toronto Incident?

Keith Richards joined an interview after his arrest in Toronto and talked about how the incident affected his life. In the beginning, he generally referred to his drug addiction and said that he didn’t realize until the Toronto incident that it had such a negative impact on his life. He had easy access to it so it was really hard for him to get out of it. However, he gave up on heroin after Toronto as he noticed the seriousness of the issue.

The legendary guitarist stated that drug use is very common among musicians because they have easy access to various drugs. He admitted that it was very challenging for him to finally get rid of his addiction but he feels lucky for that now. Being arrested in Toronto was an important wake-up call for him since he realized that his drug use affected not just him but also the other people around him.

Here is how Keith Richards talked about the incident:

“Eventually in Toronto, yes the very fact that I was addicted almost ten years leaves me now realizing that it didn’t worry me too much then because the very nature of heroin, it’s a very gradual thing to get into, it’s a very easy thing just to take and get into and very incredibly durable to get off. The black market, especially in heroin, is very very dangerous because they are totally unscrewed at this moment. You can find your service. That’s why there is such a high fatality rate amongst musicians especially because it goes along with musicians.

I’m always hesitant because of the energy making the gig the next day when you’re totally drained and it’s passed on from one generation of musicians to the next. Looking back, I’m amazed that you get onto it so not earlier, getting off of it takes so long. You don’t think clearly about things. Toronto made me realize that this was it. This time if I made a break with it and got out of the court case, it would be it. I was jeopardizing lives in the future and children, the guys in the band. It made me realize it wasn’t just me. It was gonna affect everybody I care about. In a way, that did me a favor.”

You can watch the full interview below.