In the 1960s, non-medical use of LSD was popularized by poets and musicians, like Allen Ginsberg and The Beatles, and outspoken advocates like Harvard professors Tim Leary and Ram Dass (then Richard Alpert).
The epicenter of the culture around LSD use, San Francisco, was the home of what became known as the “Summer of Love” in 1967. In the popular press and among politicians, LSD became associated with this youth-led social movement steeped in antiwar demonstrations, sexual experimentation, and cultural upheaval, which largely ignored some of the potential downfalls of widespread use in uncontrolled settings.
LSD’s widespread popularity at the time meant that it was often used in chaotic settings and sometimes by people who did not know what they were taking or who were otherwise unprepared for the experience. Media began reporting on strange behavior and negative outcomes associated with LSD use.
In 1968 President Nixon declared drugs to be “public enemy number one” and in 1970 signed the Controlled Substances Act, placing LSD in Schedule I. Nixon’s domestic policy chief admitted decades later that their declaration of a war on drugs was a tool to vilify the anti-war left, Black people, and other minorities.
“Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – John Ehrlichman