Allen’s November 1966 Atlantic Monthly piece on marijuana –The Great Marijuana Hoax: First Manifesto to End The Bringdown was recently re-published as Time Travel: Allen Ginsberg on Marijuana Tourism, 1966, with a brief introduction by Daniel Fromson. “Ginsberg offers a portrait”, Fromson writes, “of America’s pre-Summer of Love fear of marijuana, dismisses images of crazed “dope fiends” as “palpable poppycock,” and explains why smoking weed in the U.S. often induces paranoia (“The anxiety was directly traceable to fear of being apprehended and treated as a deviant criminal; put thru the hassle of social disapproval, ignominious Kafkian tremblings in vast court buildings coming to be judged, the helplessness of being overwhelmed by force or threat of deadly force and put in brick & iron cell”)”. Lester Grinspoon’s article on this and further observations on Allen’s marijuana use (and ultimate transcendence?) can be found here.
Engagement with Burroughs and Huncke and others gave Allen a significant drug education. Turning to the psychedelics, one immediately thinks of The Yage Letters, and Howl (written, at least partially, on peyote), not to mention “Mescaline“, “Magic Psalm”, “Lysergic Acid”,etc. By the time that the ‘sixties rolled around, well, the key figure was, of course, Timothy Leary (see Peter Conners recent study). Another classic document of the times has recently been exhumed, Allen’s 1968 review of Leary’s Politics of Ecstasy in the Village Voice (it is also, as is Allen’s marijuana essay, included in Deliberate Prose). “For he took on himself the noble task of announcing the evidence of his senses despite the scary contumely of fellow academicians, the dispraising timorous irony of scientific “professionals”, the stupidity, meanness self-serving cowardice and hollow vanity of bureaucratic personnel…” A moving musical (sic) defense of Leary can also be found on “Tale of The Tribe”, Allen’s contribution to Jim Wilson‘s 1997’s Beyond Life With Timothy Leary.