CONFESSIONS OF AN AMERIKAN LSD EATER
by Dale R. Gowin
This essay was written in 1991 while the author was incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in New York State.
So here I am, locked in a cage in an ancient, crumbling dungeon, doomed to spend a decade of my life marching through these murky corridors under the watchful gaze of club-wielding cops with bloated guts and beady, piggish pink eyes — cops that will open my mail, control the clothes I wear and the food I eat, examine my urine for outlaw molecules, and search my rectal cavity to make sure I’m not hiding any forbidden objects.
For companions in these corridors I have a motley crew of social misfits, some like Arlo Guthrie used to say “mother-stabbers and father-rapers,” some thieves, bank robbers, muggers and con men, some revolutionary warriors and enemies of the State, and an increasing number like myself who are condemned to this fate because of a fondness for forbidden visionary vegetables.
Yes, I am one of the most despised and despicable of media monsters, that blight of corruption against morality and decency and law’n’order — one who chooses to partake of consciousness-altering flowering herbs and alchemical essences — a drug user!
Ever since my discovery in the late 1960s of the miraculous and magical mind-manifesting powers of psychedelics, I have continued to occasionally use and enjoy these heretical vegetable products. Further, I have spoken out honestly, in print and from the public stage, about my belief that these products should be legal so that those of us who choose to use them can do so without fear. It has been my opinion that the lungs, stomach, bloodstreams and brains of individual citizens are beyond the legitimate limits of government authority — and that in a free society, people should be free to grow, prepare, use and exchange whatever vegetable products they like, without interference from the State.
Over the last couple of decades, I have continued to publicly oppose prohibition laws and other forms of social and political authoritarianism. This open activism caused me to come under the surveillance of the “authorities,” and it came to pass that I was busted in a sting operation in the city of Syracuse, New York, late in the evening of October 17, 1990.
A “friend” who I had known and trusted for many years had decided to earn some extra income for himself (or, perhaps, exculpate himself from a legal embarrassment of his own) as a paid informant to the Thought Police. He arranged to introduce me to an undercover police agent, who expressed an interest in LSD and asked me if I could find him some.
This wolf in sheep’s clothing (a skillful agent who specializes in entrapping drug heretics, a former State Police officer by the name of Christoper A. Wiegand) wove a web of lies and deceit around me to establish his credibility. He wore his hair long and shaggy; he dressed in old, ragged jeans and motorcycle boots; he affected countercultural mannerisms of speech and demeanor; he smoked pot with meat my house on a number of occasions. I located some LSD for him as he requested, and he came to my house to pick it up.
At first he bought a few hits, and then he returned for increasingly larger quantities. On the final occasion, he had worked his way up to a bundle of ten sheets (each sheet containing I 00 doses of LSD in little squares of blotter paper). On this visit, he brought a team of heavily armed police thugs with him. They were waiting at my front door when I opened it to let him out.
Suddenly I found myself looking down the barrels of six 45-caliber pistols. I was thrown to the ground, pummeled, kicked, handcuffed, and hauled back into my home for a few hours of interrogation. While two of the thugs “questioned” me (trying to convince me to turn informant so that I could “get off easy”), the rest of the team proceeded to “search” my apartment. They had a great time and did a very thorough job. They ripped up and smashed everything in sight — pulling books down from the shelves of my private library and heaping them on the floor; demolishing the shelves themselves; tearing paintings from the walls and trampling them; hurling computers and stereo equipment across the room. Records and tapes and files of documents were strewn about like rubble. They confiscated a selection of books and documents to be used as evidence against me. In the course of the search, they found some more sheets of LSD, a small amount of marijuana, some dried mushrooms and a set of scales.
I found myself facing six felony charges and a handful of misdemeanors (including multiple counts of sales, possession with intent to sell, and possession of a controlled substance). My court-appointed attorney told me that, since I had a previous drug-related indiscretion on my record, I faced a probable 25-to-life sentence, unless I was willing to switch sides and help prosecute my comrades. I spoke of challenging the charges on constitutional grounds, but I was told that this would virtually guarantee a maximum sentence. Other lawyers I sought advice from concurred, citing the prevailing political climate. (Shortly after I was busted, an undercover cop was killed during a failed bust — unfortunately not the cop that nailed me — and the media was filled with anti-drug hysteria that approached a lynch-mob mentality. The judge assigned to my case was evidently persuaded that my offenses exceeded in seriousness such paltry crimes as mere murder, rape or grand larceny.)
After I had cooled my heels in the county jail for three months (in lieu of $50,000 bail), the D.A. evidently realized that I wasn’t going to “cooperate” with the Unholy Inquisition, and I was offered a “plea bargain” in which the original charges against me were dropped and a charge of “conspiracy” was substituted — a handy, all-purpose charge which can have any meaning they choose to give it. At first, this deal came with a 12-to-life sentence (at least 12 years in prison followed by a lifetime on parole), but eventually, as I continued to hold out, they dropped it down to 6-to-12, and I was told that this was the final offer — 1 could take it or demand a jury trial and get the maximum 25-to-life sentence. So, swallowing my misgivings, I took the deal.
My experience was not an uncommon one. Recent statistics indicate that there are more than 1.5 million Americans currently incarcerated in jails and prisons, and that something close to 50% of us are locked up for prohibition violations.
BEHIND THE SCENES IN THE “WAR ON DRUGS”
So, here I am: a prisoner-of-war in the “war on drugs”.
A look beneath the veneer of propaganda shows that this “drug war” is a deceptive and insidious attack on human freedom, waged by an ultra-rich class of corporate profiteers who have successfully subverted the American political system and are attempting to establish a stranglehold on the entire world — a “new world order” that will ensure their global economic and political dominance. The drug prohibition laws are one element in their conspiracy, one cog in their machine of global domination.
The “drug war” is the epitome of hypocrisy. The politicians who wage this war against users of non-approved drugs are nearly all addicted to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, which are among the deadliest drugs ever used by humans.
Tobacco alone causes over 400,000 deaths of Americans annually.
Alcohol is the direct cause of over 125,000 U.S. deaths each year, and it is responsible for many times that number of deaths because of its correlation with traffic accidents, homicides and domestic violence.
Even caffeine, which is loaded into children’s candies and soft drinks, causes over a thousand U.S. deaths annually.
In comparison, all illegal drugs, including the most harmful, cause less than 5,000 U.S. deaths annually. And the #1 target of the “drug war,” marijuana, has never caused a single death in all of history anywhere in the world, despite the fact that it has been more widely used, and more thoroughly studied, than any other mind-altering vegetable product.
This fact was admitted by Francis L. Young, a D.E.A. administrative law judge, in an official ruling in 1988. He confirmed that there are no known deaths attributable to marijuana use, and stated that marijuana is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” and added, “In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.”
Tobacco, besides being more deadly to human health than any other legal or illegal recreational drug, is also one of the most addictive. It is often easier to kick a heroin habit than to stop smoking tobacco. Yet, the U.S. mass media is littered with seductive ads urging consumers to get hooked. These ads are prominently displayed on giant billboards in every major American city, on highways and at concerts and sporting events. They use subliminal techniques to manipulate the minds of the people. And the U.S. government subsidizes tobacco growers at taxpayers’ expense.
SECRET GOVERNMENT DRUG TRAFFICKING
But there is another level of “drug war” hypocrisy that is even more insidious.
While the U.S. government has been prosecuting users of illegal drugs, it has been engaging in secret trafficking in heroin and cocaine with the aid of the CIA, to finance “covert” military operations.
Veterans returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s described how they had witnessed, or had been forced to participate in, the smuggling of tons of heroin into the U.S. from the Southeast Asian “golden triangle” during Nixon’s “secret” incursions into Laos and Cambodia. The heroin was loaded into sealed coffins supposedly containing the dismembered corpses of American soldiers.
In the 1980s, the same type of government sponsored drug trafficking occurred with cocaine (and there are indications it continues today). The CIA arranged the importation of thousands of tons of cocaine into the U.S. from Central and South America and the Middle East, to provide covert funding for the Nicaraguan “contra” war. Details of these dealings leaked out during the Iran-Contra congressional hearings, and the story was widely reported by the newspapers of the world — except in the U.S., where it was totally suppressed. The government of Costa Rica identified Oliver North, John Poindexter,and Richard Secord as conspirators in a cocaine trafficking plot, along with CIA operative John Hull, whose Costa Rican ranch was used as a Transshipment point for drugs and arms.
This covert government involvement in drug trafficking was designed to serve a dual political purpose. On the international level, it provides financial support for covert military operations in the Third World, in furtherance of the strategy of “low intensity warfare” in support of U.S. -based multinational corporations.
Domestically, the proliferation of debilitating drugs is used to destabilize the oppressed populations of the inner cities, to counteract potentially revolutionary tendencies, and to provide a pretext for the militarization of domestic law enforcement and the erosion of traditionally protected civil liberties, bringing us a step closer to the monolithic police state that the corporate oligarchs have planned for America and the “new world order.”
Heroin flooded the streets of U.S. cities during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It rapidly plummeted in price, giving Nixon the diversion he needed to veil his major crackdown on dissidents and revolutionaries (including the FBI’s “ColntelPro” purges and the police assassination attacks on the Black Panther Party, and the frame-up of Timothy Leary on pot charges as he was putting together his campaign for governor of California). Part of this wave of repression was the draconian anti-drug law that was sponsored in New York by governor Nelson Rockefeller, the Butcher of Attica.
Under the Carter administration, there was a brief, partial thaw in the anti-drug rhetoric, during which some marijuana “decriminalization” bills were being passed by state legislatures, and some research was conducted on marijuana’s many medicinal properties. But with Reagan’s “October Surprise” takeover of the federal government, this liberalization abruptly ended. Positive findings about marijuana’s value in medicine were suppressed. Cocaine flooded U.S. cities in unprecedented abundance, dropping rapidly in price. George Bush, former CIA director under president Ford and Reagan’s top anti-drug enforcer, toured the country making speeches about the new menace of “crack” just as it was being introduced into America’s underground markets, as if he were a soap salesman drumming up interest in a new brand of detergent.
THE ANTI-CANNABIS CONSPIRACY
Under Nixon/Ford and Reagan/Bush, the major prohibition enforcement target was the least harmful of all recreational drugs: marijuana. Why this irrational national vendetta against this harmless, healing herb?
The carefully suppressed truth is that the marijuana plant — Cannabis sativa or “Indian hemp” — was once a major industrial resource that threatened the monopoly profits of the petrochemical industry and other interrelated corporate interests.
Paper, textiles, plastics, paints and varnishes, medicines and thousands of other products were once made from hemp. It was also a source of clean burning fuels that are viable alternatives to gasoline and coal.
Technical advances in hemp processing in the 1930s caused a resurgence in the hemp industry that could have triggered a revolutionary shift in the American economy, putting the giant petrochemical-based monopoly corporations out of business and transferring their profits to a “grass-roots” network of independent, agriculturally-based enterprises.
Hemp products were in the public domain and could not be controlled by exclusive patents; thus they eluded the control of monopoly-based megabusiness conglomerates.
The incestuously interlocked petroleum, chemical, paper, banking and pharmaceutical corporations (DuPont, Hearst, Mellon, GM, Rockefeller, etc.) joined forces in a blatant conspiracy to destroy the hemp industry, which they couldn’t compete with in a free market. Through the control of the nation’s media, they fabricated the “reefer madness” campaign of anti -drug hysteria, and under its influence the fraudulent “Marihuana Tax Act” was pushed through congress with a minimum of debate.
Before hemp prohibition began in 1938, marijuana and hashish were widely used and commonly accepted by the U.S. population with no hint of negative effects. Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia with over 100 different medical uses, and it was as popular an over-the-counter medicinal ingredient as aspirin and Tylenol are today. “Turkish smoking parlors” were open for business in all major U.S. cities, and hashish smoking concessions were a popular attraction at the Worlds’ Fairs. Hashish candy was sold openly in comer drug stores and through the Sears catalog. Yet, a few years after hemp prohibition began, all traces of cannabis and the hemp industry had vanished from the American media, school curricula, and history books, in one of the most thorough Orwellian cover-ups in modern history.
.PSYCHEDELICS: MIND-MANIFESTING MAGICAL MEDICINES
There is another reason that the State tries fanatically and fruitlessly to keep the people from using marijuana: it gets you high.
Like the other psychedelics, marijuana can expand human consciousness. This is threatening to the State, which bases its power on the ignorance and superstition of the masses.
Drugs like alcohol and tobacco, or heroin and cocaine, are useful to the State: they induce an intoxicated stupor, keep users dumb and gullible, and promote attitudes of competition and aggressiveness. They set up chain reactions of addictive cravings, insuring a steady stream of customers and profits.
Psychedelics, on the other hand, tend to awaken the mind from the hypnotic somnambulism of Amerikan consumer culture. Psychedelics are “anti-brainwashing agents,” stimulating users to question the assumptions of the establishment and to break through the indoctrination and conditioning that the State uses to turn us into obedient robot consumer/worker/soldier/ housewife/bureaucrats. Psychedelics can widen the horizons of the mind, awakening the creative imagination.
Besides cannabis, the major psychedelics are:
Each of these has its own unique subtleties of effect, but they all share the same basic characteristics. They expand the scope and complexity of perception, thought, comprehension, and imagination. They amplify the brain’s access to input through all sensory channels. Previously “subconscious” and “unconscious” mental contents are brought into the spotlight of conscious awareness.
These effects were noted by early researchers. Aleister Crowley, a British poet and mystical philosopher who experimented with cannabis and mescaline, described their effects as a “loosening of the girders of the soul” in his 1907 essay, The Psychology of Hashish. Aldous Huxley described the effects of mescaline as an opening of “the doors of perception” and wrote that it provided access to “the antipodes of the mind.”
Psychedelics are not “hallucinogens”: this derogatory term is used in State-sponsored anti-drug propaganda, just as all illegal drugs are often included under the blanket term “narcotics” — including cocaine, which is a powerful stimulant, the opposite of a narcotic. The alterations of perception caused by psychedelics are not hallucinations in the strict sense of the term. Rather, they are amplifications and magnifications of perceptions and mental functions, analogous to the altered perceptions caused by looking through the lenses of a telescope or a microscope.
There are some drugs which are true “hallucinogens” — i.e., which induce a confusion of the senses in which false perceptions are mistaken for real — including the belladonna — datura — henbane — mandrake family of herbs, sources of the drugs atropine and scopolamine. These drugs are in a distinct class from the psychedelics, as unbiased scientific studies of the subject make clear.
The term “psychedelic” was coined by Dr. Humphrey Osmond in the 1950s. It is derived from the Greek words psyche, soul or mind, and delos, to manifest or make clear; thus, the meaning of the term is “mind manifesting” or “soul-clarifying.” Since the 1960s, the word has entered into popular usage to describe such varied subjects as clothing styles and techniques of musical or artistic expression, but in its original sense it remains the most accurate scientific term for the unique class of consciousness-expanding drugs.
Simply stated, psychedelics affect consciousness by triggering increased amounts of neurotransmitters to flood the synapses of the brain, thus allowing the brain to process a larger percentage of the information streaming in through the nervous system. The effect is like switching on a bright light in a dimly lit room, or like waking up from a lifelong semi-sleep, to a higher degree of wakefulness than you’ve ever known.
LSD and the other major psychedelics were made illegal in 1966, at a time when they were having a major effect, both in the world of scientific, medical and philosophical research, and in the world of popular culture, where they were triggering a worldwide renaissance in music, art, literature and fashion that was affecting human society in innumerable ways.
Research with LSD showed that it had tremendous value as an aid to psychotherapy and in the treatment of alcoholism. LSD therapy was found to provide more permanent recovery from alcohol addiction than any other method, before or since. Other studies showed that a few LSD sessions could cause a major drop in recidivism among prison inmates convicted for violent crimes, and that LSD could ease the fear of death in terminal cancer patients. Yet, despite these and many other positive discoveries, all research with psychedelics was curtailed when prohibition was enacted.
Passage of laws against psychedelics was supported by a proliferation of distorted and fabricated propaganda in the mass media, in a replay of the successful anti-marijuana campaign of the 1930s. Popular myths remain today among the majority of the public that is unaware of the scientific literature on the subject; that LSD causes chromosome damage, for instance — news stories correcting this fallacy were buried on the back pages o f the daily papers and had little effect on the impressions made by the banner headlines that had originally proclaimed the scare stories.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
Millions of us who sampled the psychedelics in the 1960s experienced profound, life-changing spiritual and philosophical revelations that were of incomparable personal value. These experiences paralleled discoveries made with the aid of sacramental vegetable products by indigenous peoples from all parts of the world since ancient times — discoveries that are enshrined in the sacred scriptures and spiritual traditions of many of the world’s religions.
The “legal” persecution of those of us who freely choose to follow this ancient and honorable spiritual path — the yoga of light-containing herbs — it ethically indistinguishable from the persecution of witches and heretics, or the persecution of early Christians by the Roman state.
Whether or not the use of sacramental vegetable products meets with the approval of the civil authorities — or anyone else — it is a personal matter that clearly deserves the protection of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which promises that the “free exercise of religion” will not be abridged.
In my own experience, the vistas opened up by LSD and the other psychedelics were among the most interesting and important events of my life. Under the spell of these elixirs of light, I was filled with a sudden, overwhelming reawakening of the quality of consciousness that I remembered experiencing as a young child — yet with the addition of a fully functioning rational intellect. The fundamental questions of philosophy suddenly emerged from the dusty academic realm and assumed a living immediacy: Who am I? What is this reality, this thing we call “life”? How did this universe come to be? And what does this mean, to “be”?
And following on the heels of these questions came answers, flooding forth from within me and from everywhere I looked in the world around me. A transcendental understanding flowered in ecstasy; the scales fell from my eyes and the mysteries of Nature were revealed like an unsealed book in the clear light of the awakened Gnosis. The insights of Eastern philosophy and Western mysticism, of William Blake and Vincemt Van Gogh, were unlocked with a spontaneous revelation of their relevance to the collective human condition. I felt renewed, reborn in the purging brilliance of the revelation.
The power that gave birth to this revelation lies latent within us all, locked within the cells of our bodies, in the molecules of the matter that makes up the matrix of reality, awaiting the chemical keys that will release it into conscious awareness.
This is not to say that the use of psychedelics is the only way to release this transcendental understanding. But it certainly is one way — a way that works.
REPEAL PROHIBITION NOW
Prohibition laws are an encroachment by government into the most sacred areas of individual liberty and personal privacy.
Prohibition enforcement relies on the basest malignancies of human nature, rewarding the treachery and deceit of paid informants and the lies and deceptions of undercover agents, encouraging children to spy on their parents and citizens on their neighbors, turning public life into a miasma of hypocrisy and paranoia.
Already, prohibition is bringing American society closer to a total police state, with mandatory urine testing at our places of employment, police roadblocks on our highways, electronic surveillance of our public and private lives, and the maintenance of detailed secret police files on every citizen.
Thomas Jefferson (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”) and Patrick Henry (“give me liberty or give me death”) must be squirming and writhing in their graves as they look back on their progeny of two centuries.
I appeal to all who read these words: The use and exchange of visionary vegetable products is not a crime!
Demand an immediate end to all prohibition laws!
Demand that all prisoners of prohibition be freed under a general amnesty, and that reparations be paid for their forfeited property, lost livelihood, and disrupted lives!
Organize and act to stop this mad Juggernaut of misguided government called prohibition — before it succeeds in crushing out the flame of Liberty from the face of the Earth!
So mote it be!