Re: Stuck in the 60s without drugs

Michel J Martin (
Wed, 1 May 1996 10:13:45 -0400

Tony asked if there were any reliable statistics on drug use among
progressives in the 60s.

The short answer from our perspective today is no. The most comprehensive
measures of drug (all drugs, licit and illicit) use emerged
in the 1970s. There are two main surveys: the National Household Survey
taken annually after 1971 and the Monitoring the Future Studies collected
each year by sociologists at the University of Michigan since 1975.
Apparently the most reliable surveys in the 60s were the Gallup polls,
except for the work of some individual researchers. The Gallup
organization took polls at in the population at large and at universities
and colleges. These polls typically asked "Have you ever tried
marijuana?" or "Have you ever tried LSD?" Since these questions are so
broadly defined, they do not tell a lot. But the polls, collected fairly
regularly each year, do show a distinct trend in the late 60s. Between
1967 and 1970, there was a massive increase in percentages of people and
college students reporting having used various illegal drugs at least
once. Moreover, and this speaks to the question about progressives, the
percentage of college students reporting that they had tried marijuana
and LSD was about three times as high as the general population. In
1970, about 51 percent of college students said they had tried marijuana.

The Gallup polls show that there appeared to be more access to and use of
illegal drugs in colleges and universities. Moreover, highly active
leftists such as John Sinclair, not only promoted marijuana use along
with his political program, but he also served part of a ten year
sentence for carrying two marijuana cigarettes. Sinclair was based at
the University of Michigan. In Ann Arbor, as with Oxford, Ohio, parts of
Berkeley and other enclaves of tolerance, marijuana and LSD possession
was virtually legal. Sinclair was caught with his two joints in

A number of the keenest observers of the counter-culture also identified
marijuana and LSD as important ingredients in the alternative world
view. Theodore Rozsak's THE MAKING OF THE COUNTER CULTURE is one such book.

I would be interested to know from members of the list who want the
Sixties to be remembered for things other than illicit drug use if they
were involved in alternative subcultures which did not embrace marijuana
and LSD use. Perhaps another way to ask the question would be to ask if
these drugs were not important in the formation of alternative political

Best wishes,

Mike Martin
Temple University, History