Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Divinipotent About Outlaw Acidheads

“Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity.”
~ Thor Heyerdahl, born October 6, 1914

On October 6, 1966, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD for short, "acid" to its friends) was outlawed in California.

The drug was originally discovered in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. In 1947, pharmaceutical giant Sandoz Laboratories introduced LSD to the market as a psychiatric medication. By the 1960s, it was being used for everything from alcoholism to cancer pain to off-label and illegal government experiments.

Researchers were drawn to the drug because of the otherworldly, profoundly mystical experience it produced. However, it wasn't long before users discovered that LSD's psychedelic cascade of colorful visual distortions and sound effects could also be a lot of fun.

“The paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind's eye.”
~ Shana Alexander, born October 6, 1925

In the early 1960s, Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary and his associate Richard "Ram Dass" Alpert decided to dedicate their lives to the drug. Like Johnny Acidseeds, they set up a research facility in a Milbrook, New York, mansion and advised anyone who asked to "turn on, tun in, drop out." Unfortunately for Leary, the Assistant District Attorney of Dutchess County at the time was former FBI agent, eventual Watergate co-conspirator and font of righteous indignation G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy quickly set his sites on Leary and instigated a series of FBI raids on Leary's property. In 1965, New York became the first state to make possession of LSD a crime.

“Our own epoch is determining, day by day, its own style. Our eyes, unhappily, are unable yet to discern it.”
~ Le Corbusier, born October 6, 1887

In 1966, with research at Millbrook shut down by repeated FBI raids, Leary fought back by creating a religion, the League for Spiritual Discovery, that made LSD its holy sacrament. Around the same time, the gifted amateur chemist Owsley Stanley began manufacturing remarkably high-quality LSD and virtually giving the drug away for free in the San Francisco area. Next thing you knew, love was breaking out all over, the sun was shining in and on January 14, 1967 — three months after acid was criminalized in California — some 20,000 people headed to Golden Gate Park for the first "Human Be-in."

LSD was subsequently outlawed by several additional states and was criminalized nationally in 1968. For anyone interested in the early days of the drug's legal history, this 1966 article from Time Magazine offers an interesting account.

“It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven't lost the things that money can't buy.”
~ George Lorimer, born October 6, 1867

Everything old is new again, and as this Web site shows, Swiss scientists are once again exploring therapeutic uses for LSD. In particular, they are studying whether the drug's ability to induce a mystical cosmic connection can reduce anxiety in people with terminal illnesses.

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(The answer to your question is yes.)

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