03/27/11 Martin Lee

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Martin A. Lee, co-author of Acid Dreams, The Complete Social History of LSD + Amanda Fielding/Lady Neidpath, Dir of Beckley Foundation in the UK

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / March 27, 2011


Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”


My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


This is indeed Cultural Baggage. My name is Dean Becker. I want to read from a passage of a book that we’re going to be talking about today. This is quoting Jerry Rubin:

“At community meetings all over the land, Bob Dylan will replace the National Anthem. There will be no more jails, courts, or police. The White House will become a crash pad for anybody without a place to stay in Washington. The world will become one big commune with free food and housing, everything shared. All watches and clocks will be destroyed... The Pentagon will be replaced by an LSD experimental farm.”

This is reading from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond with that I want to introduce the author, Mister Martin Lee. Hello, sir.

Martin Lee: How are you doing?

Dean Becker: I’m well. Martin, I want to start to start this off. We’re going to get into the book and the history of the psychedelics a bit but first, I want to talk about the passing just a couple of weeks back now of Mister Owsley, down there in Australia. He was quite a pioneer. Was he not?

Martin Lee: Well, he played a very important role in the history of LSD, that’s for sure. It was his product. He was a chemist when LSD was still legal, in the early and mid-nineteen sixties. It was his LSD that first circulated on the street, better known as street acid.

It first hit big time in the Bay Area of the United States, San Francisco in February 1966 and from there it really spread all over the world. The Beatles were so impressed by Owsley’s acid that they actually commissioned him to make a special batch for them.

It became really a favorite of people early on during the counter culture years, in the mid-sixties before the drug was actually made illegal by the US government.

Dean Becker: Yeah, I had the misfortune of my first tab of acid, while it was legal, well it wasn’t acid (laughs) but anyway, I did encounter some of Owsley product in the ensuing years. It even made its way to Houston and I’m sure much further than that.

Martin Lee: Yes, it got around, all around the world. It was considered the crème de la crème, really the gold standard if you will, for street acid. He became a mentor to other chemists who played a prominent role in providing LSD to LSD hungry and eager Americans and world citizens.

His successors include Nick Sand and Tim Scully, who produced the first version of LSD called Orange Sunshine. They took over after Owsley was busted in the late sixties and Sand and Scully produced a lot of Orange Sunshine and that became very popular, as well.

Dean Becker: Um, can I ask you something? Some made its way to Houston it’s kind of a long thin barrel? Was that the Orange Sunshine that you remember?

Martin Lee: Well, we’re talking now late sixties. I don’t specifically remember it as a barrel. It may have come in different forms but it was a little pill, a tiny little pill.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Martin Lee: It was produced on a pill press. It wasn’t blotter acid at the time. That is more likely to come around the street these days but Orange Sunshine also was considered very powerful and something that the other brands would have to measure up to and you could say that was an extension of what Owsley did, because Owsley really mentored the people that produced Orange Sunshine. So, Owsley did play a major role.

He dies in a traffic accident, just a few days ago, really. He was living in Australia the last few years. He was a quirky character. I tried to interview him, when I was researching and writing Acid Dreams. It was kind of a funny encounter. He spoke to me on the telephone for about an hour, spending most of the time telling me why he wouldn’t talk to me.

Dean Becker: (Laughs)

Martin Lee: But in fact, he was talking. So, it was interesting.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Martin Lee: That’s the kind of character that he was. He was dynamic, strong minded, a kind of pushy macho but he played a very important role in that scene and a lot of people appreciate what he did.

Dean Becker: Alright. Now coming back to the book, I’m just going to chapter one. In the Beginning There Was Madness: The Truth Seekers, Enter LSD, Laboratories of the State, Midnight Climax, The Hallucination Battlefield. Do you want to summarize that chapter for us?

Martin Lee: Well, that chapter was mainly about was what the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA was doing with LSD when they first began experimenting with the drug in the very early 1950’s.

It was part of mind control research, behavior control research that they were pursuing secretly. The most well-known program – well, it became well known later but was secret while it was happening, was called Operation MK Ultra. It was actually an umbrella program that consisted of 149 different sub-projects that really looked at all areas of behavior control of interest of the CIA at the time, not just drugs but electroshock and sensory deprivation and hypnosis. They tried all these different things in combination with various drugs.

The initial focus of those efforts was to try and find a truth serum, a truth drug that they could use to make people talk and reveal information that they would otherwise not be inclined to reveal that information. So, various drugs and combinations of different techniques were initially tried in an effort to develop a truth drug and eventually the CIA started using LSD for interrogation purposes as well.

This evolved into an usual situation where the US government agents were actually giving LSD to selected targets that they wanted to solicit information from when no other information – or I should say—interrogation techniques worked. They would try LSD.

The idea was, they would slip a person LSD without their knowledge. They would be given it surreptitiously and they wouldn’t know they had been given a drug. They didn’t know anything about LSD but an hour after they had ingested the drug, in an hour or so, they would hallucinate like crazy. They’d feel like they were going out of their minds.

They didn’t necessarily know they had been drugged and the US interrogator, at that point, would tell the person well were going to keep you in this state forever, in this same terrifying condition, unless you tell us what we want to know.

So, it was a rather crude interrogation technique. It was kind of a third degree- kind of a psychological third degree tactic but apparently, in some cases, this approach worked and did end up breaking people and soliciting information. The problem was, this information that they would get would not always be accurate. People would be so crazy and flip out

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Martin Lee: After being given LSD surreptitiously that you couldn’t always be sure that what you were getting was actually information that was important for the CIA’s purposes.

Dean Becker: Right.

Martin Lee: There was one way the Central Intelligence Agency, at least initially, was looking at LSD as a potential espionage weapon and it went on from there and the program evolved in various ways.

Dean Becker: Alright, once again friends, we’re speaking with Mister Martin Lee. He’s co-author of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.

The second chapter of the book, Psychedelic Pioneers, we already talked about Mister Owsley. I want to jump to the third chapter, Under the Mushroom, Over the Rainbow, Manna from Harvard, Chemical Crusaders, The Crack Down. It was quite a –oh, a punsh, quite a hub bub going on, in regards to alerting people to the potential benefits of LSD there in the sixties, right?

Martin Lee: Well, there was scientific research, very serious research going on for about ten years, in early fifties to the early sixties, this in the United States and other countries, as well.

By the time the early sixties came around, Doctor Timothy Leary, a psychologist at Harvard University became interested in LSD and he stared experimenting with the drug and doing some interesting research, giving it prisoners, seeing if it would help reduce recidivism rates, giving it to religious or theology students in a church setting, seeing if LSD had any influence on possible religious experiences, unifying consciousness type of experiences that these theology students might undergo.

Leary should be remembered, though it is widely known that he was a relative latecomer to the LSD research scene. The chapter you just referred to is about Leary and his work at Harvard and his group there but there was some very intense, interesting research going on for ten years, before Leary finally got into it.

It was showing that LSD therapy when given as an adjunct to psychotherapy could be helpful in treating alcoholics, people with very psychologically resistant type of conditions and it as considered a very hopeful tool, in terms of psychotherapy, until a controversy erupted on the early and mid-sixties and LSD started to be associated with the emerging counter culture in the United States.

Dean Becker: And thankfully through the work good folks like Rick Doblin and others at Map Inc. and other organizations, governmental agencies are beginning to allow the study again, the use for medical purposes, of LSD for bereavement, certain conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and others, to allow science to get back on track in that regard, right?

Martin Lee: This is long overdue. It had a lot of momentum, LSD research, until the early 1960s and then those very promising studies were nipped in the bud and for several decades this research was blocked and essentially put on the shelf and wasn’t allowed to continue in any official capacity and as you mentioned only recently, in the last few years has the United States government and a few other governments around the world, begun to allow a few studies to take place, as rigorous scientific studies, to see if LSD may be helpful for people with advanced cancer, facing terminal illnesses, if it might help them come to terms with their situation.

PTSD is another area where LSD and MDMA have been used, initially now with some success, at least that is what the studies are showing and hopefully this is the beginning of a trend where potentially a very valuable tool that will be will be adopted, once again and the potential of these drugs in terms of therapy and other therapeutic attributes will be allowed to be fleshed out and hopefully investigated.

Dean Becker: Yeah and you know the same holds true for MDMA, which was I don’t how much of portion of the book it really construes at this point but the point being that MDMA is also being used for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the guilt verdict on these drugs is being reconsidered.

Martin Lee: Yes, also cannabis is being used successfully for PTSD.

Dean Becker: Yes, this is true.

Martin Lee: In states where medical marijuana is legal. So, there is a number of different possibilities, based on drugs that were banned in the 1960s, for developing useful medical tools, not just for LSD but for marijuana. Obviously, that’s become much more widely accepted but at one time LSD also was looked upon as a drug with great medical potential before it sort of fell into disrepute because of its counterculture associations, in much the same pattern.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Martin Lee: That transpired with cannabis.

Dean Becker: Alright we got about four minutes left for our discussion here. I know were not going to get through all this book. I know we’re going to have to invite you back again soon Martin because this is just more than we can do in this fifteen minute period here.

Part two of this book, Acid Dreams, is labeled: Acid for the Masses, From Hip to Hippie. There was quite a large number of people using acid there for a several years.

Martin Lee: Several million, I think the numbers by the end of the sixties about three million people had tried LSD because of – largely because of people like Owsley, who just passed away, the acid – the famous acid chemist, it become a street drug. There was a great deal interest. There was a period in the mid-1960s or social rebellion and cultural ferment.

LSD and marijuana both became embroiled with this cultural firmament and the protests against the wars in Vietnam and civil rights and other issues. It was all one big swirl and LSD and marijuana seemed to reinforce or accentuate the spirit of rebellion at the time.

Acid Dreams documents that history literally year by year a look at what happened, how LSD influenced the counterculture and the culture of mainstream society and what happened with it, where – how it sort of crested in popularity and then petered out, as the sixties gave way. Although the interest in LSD had never left us.

People have always been interested in these types of experiences since actually time immemorial, ever since prehistory human beings have experimented with mind altering drugs, similar to LSD. The Acid Dreams is really focusing on the recent history, since the 1960s, although it looks a little bit at the primitive use of psychedelics, it mainly is a social history of the sixties.

Dean Becker: Yeah and I, you know, I’m old enough I “grew up in the sixties” hopefully matured in the seventies, if you will, but it’s hard to know. I used LSD approximately four hundred times went on to have a great career as a quality control manager and then as a project analyst for a major oil company. It didn’t seem to stifle my abilities, any closing thoughts there Martin Lee?

Martin Lee: Well, no, a lot of people well known in society have taken LSD and have credit it as being an important experience, a learning experience, an eye opener. Look at Steve Jobs, the Head of Apple. He says it was one of the most influential experiences of his life.

In fact, the whole LSD underground really initially emerged in a significant way in the Bay Area of San Francisco around the same time that the cyber whiz kids in Silicon Valley were doing their thing. There was certainly an overlap there.

In the use of LSD influenced what was happening in the Silicon Valley there was no question about that but it certainly had a great deal of influence in the broader way in American culture, in the arts and for music for certain.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Martin Lee: Everyone has heard of Acid Rock and all the bands there. So, it did play a role. It played a role in terms of political upheavals, as well. Whether that role was good of bad that’s another natter to assess, perhaps it was a mixed bag but certainly it was a factor.

Dean Becker: Yeah. As I recall, I can’t remember the gentleman’s name but one of the people that discovered the human genome said he had inspiration on an acid trip that helped him to actually delved into, you know, producing the science for the discovering the human genome.

Martin Lee: I think you are referencing to Kary Mullis, who invented something called PCR that enabled scientists to actually sequence amino acids and ultimately create the whole project to map the human genome and other animals, as well. So, it is a very important discovery.

He won the Nobel Prize for this and he credits LSD, in part, for his inspiration and his insight into this very sophisticated scientific discovery.

Dean Becker: Alright Martin, we’re going to have to wrap it up there. Martin Lee, author of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond. Martin, five seconds for a website, if you’ve got one for us.

Martin Lee: Actually I’m interested I’m having people look at these days is www. projectcbd.org. It’s the project I’m working on now. It’s medical marijuana related, not specifically related to LSD, although another time we can probably draw some links, if need be.

Dean Becker: Will do. Alright, thank you Martin Lee.

Martin Lee: Thank you.

(Game show music)

Dean Becker: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Alex Trebeck: A 2009 study recommended treating heroin addicts with diazepam morphine, the active ingredient in this?


Dean Becker: Time’s up! The answer from a recent edition of Jeopardy:

Alex Trebek: Karen?

Contestant Karen: What is heroin?

Alex Trebek: Yes.


Amanda Feilding: My name is Amanda Feilding and I am the Director of the Beckley Foundation.

Dean Becker: Now, the Beckley Foundation is a drug reform organization based in the UK, correct?

Amanda Feilding: Yes, it’s really a think tank and we do a bit of scientific research. But it advises the UN and governments of possible alternatives to the present policy.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am. You are putting forward a new initiative and I’m wondered if you might explain that for the listeners.

Amanda Feilding: It’s a new initiative for drug policy reform for 2011 and 2012. 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘61 UN Convention, which lies at the root of the prohibitionist approach to drug control. After fifty years, it really has been proved that the war on drugs has failed. The prohibitionist approach has indeed caused more harms than its solved.

What I do with my organization is do kind of research on what other possible ways can we control and regulate the use of psychoactive substances, which will be more heath, more approached from a health aspect and less from a criminalization aspect.

Indeed the good news is that after years of no movement, the UN has recently stated that it that it would like to see a new health approach to drug policy and indeed it has asked us to help organize such a thing in countries. So, that is what I’m doing.

I’m working with a partner, very closely with a new organization called the All Party Parliamentary group for Drug Policy Reform and that consists of about sixty members of the House of Lords in London and of Parliament MPs. They are of all parties and many of them are very senior members and they have all signed up to the fact that we need to have a new approach. Certainly in the last year or so, there’s become a kind a wave of realization that it is not working.

I started in drug policy maybe twelve years ago in a serious manner with this foundation and then there was no concept that people could use drugs without it being misused, when in fact, at least 90% of people use psychoactive substances without them being of any harm to themselves or without causing any harm to society. It’s roughly 10% of people who cause the vast majority of the harms.

So, what we should be doing is concentrating on the harmful misusers and trying to help them either treat their addiction or help them in whatever way we can and leave mere users, if there aren’t causing anyone any trouble, to their own freedom and concentrate on how we educate people not to misuse.

And think about ways in which we can regulate different substances through the government so we can tax them and take these vast sums of money, roughly $320 billion, it was in 2009, out of the hands of criminal cartels, who are causing an incredible destruction and criminalization and upsetting whole states or whole countries and nation states like in Mexico and various countries are just becoming warzones because of the Drug War and the power of the criminals.

Dean Becker: There’s a phrase that’s used in Mexico, Central and South America. It’s called “Plata o plomo,” which translated means “the silver or the lead.”

Amanda Feilding: Um, hum.

Dean Becker: Which has led to vast corruption, not just in Mexico but in the United States and I would think the UK, as well.

Amanda Feilding: Yes.

Dean Becker: Of our elected officials, who are lured by these untold billions of profits that you’re speaking of.

Amanda Feilding: Yes.

Dean Becker: Your response?

Amanda Feilding: Absolutely! Absolutely! I mean, to have those vast sums of money floating around is just a corruption such as no one can believe. I mean it’s very difficult for policeman, who are very underpaid, maybe in Mexico, to turn the blind eye when they’re being told that they can make a lot of money for just letting the shipment through and it goes right up the scale for the people in government and high positions in the police at the frontiers.

It riddles society with the corruption, in certain countries obviously more than in others but it goes everywhere and it really doesn’t— after the last fifty years have shown, one can’t stop the movement or the demand of these substances.

If you stop the movement in one place, it will along the balloon effect, just crop up in another. You can eradicate all crops and one part of Latin American and they just crop up ion another. You block them being transferred through one route and they get transferred through another. It’s a kind of floodgate that cannot be successfully closed.

It’s the wrong policy which is not only wasting billions of pounds and dollars but is also caused unknown suffering. There are now ten million people worldwide in prison for drug offenses and many of those people are just, mere cannabis users and also it’s very discriminatory, who they catch. It’s nearly always minorities who get the worst brunt of the criminalization. So, the poor things get even more unemployable once they’ve been in prison.

Dean Becker: Indeed.

Amanda Feilding: It’s inhumane, our system and also its very un-liberal and against the human rights of people to have the freedom to enjoy happiness and health, because it’s an illusion to presume that everyone who consumes psychoactive substances are doing it in a way of misuse, which damages their health. People for millennia have used these substances.

What I do at the Beckley Foundation is research policy options but we also do scientific research so that one better understands how these substances work and how they the brain, how they could be useful in psychotherapy and in different medical conditions. Because no on in the last hundred years or fifty years had devoted time and money on this because the taboo on the subject.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Amanda Feilding, Lady Beckwith, the Director of the Beckley Foundation in the UK. Amanda, if you will please share your website and point folks about where you can learn more about this initiative.

Amanda Feilding: The website of the Beckley Foundation is www.beckleyfoundation .org and I should just say that the new initiative that I’m putting together is a global initiative and we want to have global publicity about how we need to relook at drug policies.

So please, anyone interested come and sign in at the Beckley website and we’re going to move this up to November, when we will have a meeting at the House of Lords in London, where we will have Heads of State and indeed former Heads of State and leading politicians who will hopefully endorse the new UN Convention, which will allow greater freedom in the way that countries approach the regulation of these substances.

Dean Becker: Alright, I want to thank Lady Beckwith, Martin Lee author of Acid Dreams.

Join us next week on Cultural Baggage. Our guest will be Natasha Frost of the Drug Policy Institute, Margaret Dooley Samuel of the Drug Policy Alliance, talking about the failure of the Drug Courts in these United States.

I hope you enjoyed this program. Stay tuned for Century of Lies that continues next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations. Because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.


To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.