Fifty Years Underground: LSD Prohibition Began October 6, 1966

Haight-Ashbury Blotter Art

"Bring the color gold... Bring photos of personal saints and gurus and heroes of the underground... Bring children... Flowers... Flutes... Drums... Feathers... Bands... Beads... Banners, flags, incense, chimes, gongs, cymbals, symbols, costumes, joy."

Thus began the invitation to the Love Pageant Rally on October 6, 1966, the day, fifty years ago to the day, that the first LSD prohibition law was passed in the state of California. 

The heads in the Haight did what they do best -- they organized an impromptu party. 

Beat influenced poet and underground paper editor Allen Cohen and artist Michael Bowen, both known for their work with the San Francisco Oracle, put out the invitation and the people responded. 

Kesey arrived with his bus Furthur and the band of Merry Pranksters.

Bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead performed. In fact, the Grateful Dead did their one and only live performance of Alice D. Millionaire, a song written for Owsley based on a San Francisco Chronicle headline about the band's sound engineer and legendary chemist friend. 

"Without confrontation," said Allen Cohen, "we wanted to create a celebration of innocence. We were not guilty of using illegal substances. We were celebrating transcendental consciousness. The beauty of the universe. The beauty of being."

And here it is fifty years later. Marijuana prohibition is waning but LSD is still very much illegal in most of the world. 

Intriguingly, October 7-9th, a day after the anniversary of the world's first LSD prohibition law, the state of California will be hosting a rock and roll concert. The musicians who are attending are Paul McCartney of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. 

All six of those headliners were making popular music in October of 1966. All six of those headliners wrote songs that challenged culture and flirted with consciousness expansion. All six of those headliners changed the curve of culture.

This is an art blog that chronicles and promotes my ventures into the psychedelic art scene, but I feel it warrants stating that it is ludicrous that LSD is still illegal despite a complete lack of overdoses attributed to the drug. The mortality rate for LSD is virtually non-existent. People might do something insane on LSD. People might even hurt themselves and die on LSD but LSD "overdose" is non-fatal and essentially non-existent. 

Alcohol in large quantities is fatal. Most prescription pills in large quantities are fatal. Nicotine in large quantities is fatal. LSD may radically distort perception, but it is non-fatal. 

Fifty years is too long. We venerate our psychedelic pioneers but we still imprison casual users. Art and culture have benefitted far too much from entheogenic drugs. It is time they earn their proper place in the contemporary world.

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