May 23, 1969
The idea had come to Tim in the shower.
Marshall McLuhan suggested that he come up with something snappy to say when advocating the use of LSD.
In front of 30,000 hippies at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park attending the Human Be-In he uttered the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
This 1967 event helped inspire a smaller scale event in our area a few years later, the Free University’s Be-in.
Not many people can claim to be a legitimate spokesmen for the 1960’s.
Timothy Leary is near the top of the list of witnesses for the counterculture.
In 1969 he was the first announced candidate for governor. His platform was pro-drug and anti-war, anti-establishment.
Quoting excerpts from Dave Verbon’s story:
Dr. Timothy Leary, former Harvard psychology professor and a man who has continually challenged marijuana laws, said he is “floating” (not running) to Sacramento.
About 3,000 persons were in Cal Poly’s Men’s Gym [now Mott Gym] to hear Leary.
“There is a way to solve the problems of this country,” he (Leary) said: “Just get high.”
He said he had to work with the young people in society because the younger people are, the better they are to comprehend his philosophy of happiness.
“The reaction of the establishment to the young is more and more repression,” he said.
“Have you heard what is happening at Berkeley? Have you heard the latest body count there?”
“They sprayed gas over the entire campus. Everyone got hit by it-the protesters, the right-wingers. Even the jocks in the gym got gassed.”
The audience applauded.
“I will not be running the traditional campaign, ” he said, “but there will be plenty of smoke filled rooms.”
“If I were allowed to debate Reagan on college campuses today, would there be any question as to who would win?” he asked.
“The concept of politicians today is to see who can keep the people the most uptight-who can show the grimmest face. “The real function of a leader is to radiate good feeling.”
He outlined another difference between a Leary and Reagan administration.
“My state police will be picking up hitchhikers and my helicopters will be dropping, not gas but flowers.”
He got applause for lines like this but his run for state office was under the unhappy cloud of a marijuana possession arrest at the end of 1968.
A few months later he would be back in the county as a guest at the California Men’s Colony.
Convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana, when he entered prison he was given psychological placement tests, some of which the Berkley Ph.D. and Harvard professor had designed.
Results from exams such as the Leary Interpersonal Behavior Test showed he was a perfect candidate to work as a gardener and was a low flight risk.
In September of 1970 he made a non-violent escape from the minimum security side of the prison. Wearing handball gloves he climbed on the roof of a building one evening and slithered over the fence on a telephone cable.
The Weather Underground were waiting outside and assisted in the escape. They wanted Huey Newton, but he was beyond their reach in the more secure east facility.
Leary was later recaptured and spent time in Folsom Prison before being pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown Jr.
Other quotes attributed to Leary over the years:
“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”
“Think for yourself and question authority.”
“The universe is an intelligence test.”
“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.”
“I am 100 percent in favor of the intelligent use of drugs, and 1,000 percent against the thoughtless use of them, whether caffeine or LSD.”
“There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.”
No doubt Leary was a brilliant mind but advocates of unregulated drug use have to acknowledge a body count.
The usual examples are famed musicians like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin but illegal drugs are still around today. Examples range from the family torn apart by methamphetamine use to today’s border drug wars. Sadly addiction recovery programs rank low on our scale of funding priorities.
Our drug policies have not changed much since both sides of the culture wars staked out their turf in the 1960’s.
Photos by Michael Raphel