LSD as gateway drug

When I told my mother about taking LSD, she was quite concerned

OPINION I took my first acid trip in 1965 at Tim Leary's LSD research center in Millbrook, N.Y. He was supposed to be my guide, but he had gone off to India. Ram Dass (then Richard Alpert) was supposed to take his place, but he was involved in preparing to open at the Village Vanguard as a psychedelic comedian-philosopher. So my guide was Michael Hollingshead, the British rascal who had originally turned Leary on.

When I told my mother about taking LSD, she was quite concerned.

"It could lead to marijuana," she warned.

Meanwhile, a whole new generation of pioneers was traveling westward, without killing a single Indian along the way. San Francisco became the focus of this pilgrimage. On Haight Street, runaway youngsters — refugees from their own families — stood outside a special tour bus — guided by a driver "trained in sociological significance."

On the day that LSD became illegal — Oct. 6, 1966 — at precisely two o'clock in the afternoon, a cross-fertilization of mass protest and tribal celebration took place, as several hundred explorers of inner space simultaneously swallowed tabs of acid while the police stood by helplessly. Internal possession wasn't against the law.

On another occasion, folks from all over the Bay Area were ingesting LSD in preparation for the Acid Test at Longshoreman's Hall, organized by Ken Kesey and his Band of Merry Pranksters. The ballroom was seething with celebration, thousands of bodies stoned out of their minds, unduutf8g to rock bands amid balloons and streamers and beads, with a thunder machine and strobe lights flashing, so that even the Pinkerton guards were high by contact. Kesey asked me to take the microphone and contribute a running commentary on the scene.

"All I know," I began, "is that if I were a cop and I came in here, I wouldn't know where to begin...."

My next stop was determined by a press release from the campaign headquarters of Robert Scheer, a Democrat who was running for Congress in Oakland: "Usually informed sources reported today that an outlawed left-wing psychedelic splinter within the Scheer campaign will caucus with Paul Krassner at 2 a.m. Saturday night, at the Jabberwock. These authoritative sources reported that Krassner, who has just returned from Washington, will deliver a preview of the State of the Union Message for 1966."

Although decriminalization of marijuana was one of Scheer's platform planks, he admitted to the audience that he wouldn't smoke pot himself as long as it was illegal. I in turn announced that I wouldn't stop smoking pot until it was legal. The previous year, before I emceed a teach-in at the Berkeley campus, Stew Albert of the Vietnam Day Committee had introduced me to Thai stick, and I became a dedicated toker.

"Now I know why there's a war going on in Southeast Asia," I observed. "To protect the crops."

That simple quote was enough to land my picture on the cover of the Berkeley Barb, smoking a joint. But my mother was right. LSD did lead to marijuana. *

Paul Krassner was the founder of The Realist (an alternative press prototype), is the author of Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture and Comedy in America Today and In Praise of Indecency: Dispatches From the Valley of Porn, and is a monthly columnist for SF Carnal Nation (

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