On May 3, 1969, after disembarking from his flight, James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Customs inspectors found a small quantity of hashish and heroin in his luggage. As authorities pulled the vial out of his bag, Jimi shook his head in disbelief and categorically denied they were his. Jimi was released in time for his evening concert in Toronto. He was arraigned two days later and, after posting $10,000 bail, was allowed to continue the tour. During that waiting period, he lived with the very real fear of conviction – he faced as many as 10 years in prison.
On June 19, Jimi flew to Toronto, where he appeared in court for a preliminary hearing. His actual trial began in December 1969. Jimi argued in court that the drugs were slipped into his bag by a fan back in LA and that he didn’t notice them. Privately, he blamed a disgruntled groupie who, he said, had planted the drugs and called ahead to the Canadian police. He was acquitted of the charges.
When Jimi Hendrix was busted for trying to bring heroin into Canada on May 3, 1969, by far the most extraordinary aspect of the event was how little press it generated. Jimi was arguably the biggest rock star in America at this juncture, yet his arrest only made a few Toronto papers. When news of the bust finally did break, Jimi suggested the arrest was emblematic of a larger battle between youth and authority.
Hendrix’s brief and meteoric career was marred by both legal disputes and substance abuse allegations. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix was found dead at his girlfriend’s flat in London under mysterious circumstances. He had asphyxiated on aspirated vomit—largely red wine. Inconsistencies in the recollections of Hendrix’s close associates, confusion over his time of death, his surprisingly low blood alcohol content, and other oddities surrounding the circumstances of his death have fueled speculation about whether Hendrix’s death may have involved foul play.