Straight from the archives: The bum-tripper’s guide

In the first issue of the Georgia Straight, Peter Hlookoff started a running commentary on the clash between Vancouver’s handcuff-happy officers and the “dope fiends” they targeted.

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      On May 5, 1967, Dan McLeod published the first issue of the Georgia Straight—an independent rag dedicated to highlighting the radical voices of Vancouver’s artists and advocates. In it, Peter Hlookoff, a local activist, would publish the first in a series, called “The Bum Tripper’s Guide”—a running commentary drawing attention to the clash between the city’s handcuff-happy narcotics officers and the “dope fiends” they targeted. The series was a blunt indictment of Canada’s own thriving war on drugs. Just a few years prior, the Narcotic Control Act had increased maximum sentences for drug trafficking to life, removed minimum sentences for minor possession, and reinforced an officer’s carte blanche rights to conduct unwarranted searches. In light of the most recent legislative shifts seen in the Cannabis Act, the Straight decided to resurrect Hlookoff’s words from the bowels of the archives and present them against the backdrop of a new era in cannabis law. While the country has outgrown a handful of the blatant human rights violations of the 60s, much of the sentiment in the series still echoes true to the state of the modern cannabis liberation movement. It serves both as a reminder to celebrate the strides in the social acceptance of North America’s weed culture, and a warning to resist the pull to return to a time where the tightening of federal laws was mischaracterized as freedom.

      by Peter Hlookoff

      I feel that psychedelic light-shows, and other consciousness-expanding experiences, do not accomplish their objective—they do not turn you on without the aid of drugs. In order to really appreciate them, it helps to take a few puffs of the old hemp-stick before entering.

      The basic problem with these shows is that the producers are carried away by acid enthusiasm, a kind of positive attitude that is foreign to the lives of most of us. I suggest a more realistic approach. Why not stage a mind-shrinking experience?

      A location for this event will be simple to find. Any damp and drafty place will do, such as an old barn or abandoned garage. First, we will buy one naked 1000 watt bulb, and hang this about two feet above the heads of the spectators, who will be sitting on hard wooden benches. Each one will have paid three dollars admission.

      Next, we will hire someone who is so bitter, so turned-off by life that his mere presence gives everyone else a contact low. He will do an imitation of a spastic, while pulling the light cord. Jack-hammers and a dentist drill will provide a background of simulated electronic sound.

      After about two hours of this, the Narcotics Squad will come in a bust everybody. All will be charged with possession of a dangerous narcotic substance: the banana oil that the benches have been freshly painted with.

      Finally, after four hours of heavy questioning, everyone will be released. By this time, their minds will be so contracted that, the moment they step outside, reality will turn them on like LSD.

      This experiment show the philosophy behind the tactics of Mr. Abraham Snidanko and his Narcotics Squad: bum trip the marijuana-and-LSD users, give them an experience so bad that the Dirty Dope Fiends will come to regard the straight world as utterly delightful.

      Perhaps Abe had a point. (I have never met him, but I have felt his presence so constantly during the last two years, that I regard him almost as an old friend, and feel free to address him by his first name.) I am impressed by his understanding of the constructive value of a negative experience, or bum trip; however, the sloppiness of his approach appalls me.

      I feel that he is utilizing the bum trip furiously (just for kicks, so to speak). So, for his benefit, and for those of you who are considering taking a bum trip for the purpose of serious scientific research (no triflers please), I will describe what a bum trip is, and show you how to prepare for one.

      The LSD bum trip may be the greatest experience known to man. Even famous Bumtrippers like Dante and General Custer would have been impressed (depressed may be a better word).

      Bum Trip is a general term, describing any unpleasant situation—those of normal life, as well as those experienced under LSD.

      A trip is a condensation, into a few hours, of your whole life. A bum trip us a logical result of a negative attitude toward life. You are caught in a trap of your own making. Only by accepting everything, and looking directly at all the unpleasant things in your life, can you escape off the bum trip. Afterwards, you will be able to make use of this technique, in dealing with the bum trips of your normal life.

      In order to give your trip the maximum degree of bumness possible, you should prepare carefully. Above all, you must be careful not to let yourselves be taken in by those boring and incomprehensible preachers of love and positivity. Take the LSD at a time when you feel depressed, to cheer yourself up. Allow four hours for the trip, then another hour to straighten up a bit before going to work. Take as much as you can get, just as soon as you get it. That way, you wont have to worry about being busted for possession. And, if you should happen to freak out, the police will take good care of you. They are all excellent gurus and are sure to show the white light.

      It is essential that your personal life be in complete disorder. Or in some order that disturbs you. Have some worry that you can refer to, in case things become too peaceful. It helps to feel hopelessly inadequate in dealing with your job, your family, your sex life, etc.

      If all else fails you can always use the police as a reference point. Think about being busted and thrown in jail for a couple of years. Nobody could fail to be bumtripped by that.

      Whenever I make up a list of those most likely to have a bum acid trip, I usually put policemen near the top. It’s just possible, though, that I’m being unfair here. There must be rewards to the job that I don’t see. I certainly don’t envy a policeman his job. To be constantly watching to see if somebody is doing something illegal, to be always meeting people at their worst, is enough to sour anybody.

      In certain respects, policemen have the status of second-class citizens. They are not allowed to go on strike, even though their wages are inadequate by today’s standards. Very often, they are forced to limit their social life to a small circle of acquaintances. Open hostility could be the result, if their occupation were widely known, in any neighborhood.

      Still, many policemen relatively unscarred, the mask of authority is easily broken through, and they can be talked to, as one human being to another. It is entirely possible that those who have taken LSD have had excellent trips. I would be very interested in finding out more about this. If any of you policemen write to me concerning this, or come speak to me personally, I promise that I will not reveal your names to anybody. In fact, I would be very pleased to talk to any policeman about this matter, whether or not he has actually tried LSD. Civilized people should not live in an atmosphere of mutual distrust.

      It is a long time since I’ve felt paranoid about the average policeman on the street. I realize that the whole marijuana-LSD controversy is not their concern. They were dragged into this mess by that cop-turned-public relations-man, Don Bellamy. It seems obvious that he was only a public relations man, right from the beginning, and manufactured the whole LSD problem in order to create a public image for himself, so that he could secure a comfortable, well-paying job.

      Even so, the indoctrination session that you policemen had to undergo was hardly a waste of time. Some of you must have gotten high from the marijuana that they made you snuff. So you have gained some idea of the joys and benefits derived from this marvelous plant.

      My praise for marijuana is boundless and without reservation. There is no harmful effect that I can think of. Except that its use may lead to tobacco smoking, which is indeed a serious consequence. It’s true that some become paranoid, particularly if it is their first time, and they are in the company of people they don’t particularly trust. This pot-paranois, however, is easily gotten-over; once you have come to terms with it you will find that you have also gained mastery over other irrational fears. When you are high, you strip away many of the superficial layers that surround both you and others; you can talk directly about the things that are most vital both to you and to the person you are with. Compared with this a beer-parlor conversation seems boring or disgusting.

      It is essential that this gentle herb be made more readily available. Importers should keep in mind the fact that the penalty is the same, whether they are caught with one ounce or ten kilos. The easiest way to ensure a plentiful supply, though, is to plant every seed that comes into your hands. 

      My feelings towards LSD are more ambivalent. I am slightly suspicious of it, as I am of all inorganic medicines. As for the reports of people suffering permanent mental damage, I do not believe them. I have never met anyone whose mind was damaged permanently by LSD. If there is any truth at all to newspaper reports on hospital case, I believe this problem can be best dealt with by organizing a Freak-Outs Anonymous: a system of phone numbers and addresses, to contact if you have trouble with LSD. Please write to me about this, c/o this newspaper, if any of you have funds, addresses, or ideas to contribute for this project.

      As everyone knows, there have been two LSD suicides in Vancouver. Both were personal friends of mine. Neri Gadd, one of the two, had been arrested a few months before his death, for possession of marijuana. Sam Perry, the other young man who killed himself, had just been released from a mental hospital. It was the jail, rather than the LSD, that drove them to suicide.

      It’s true that LSD does produce suicidal urges. I have felt these myself. LSD gives you a sharp downward push, then a great release. Alcohol degrades you, pushes you lower and lower in your own opinion and in that of others. I would like to see a graph showing the correlation of alcohol to suicides, and of how many suicides were addicted to nicotine and caffeine. In my opinion, LSD is less likely to drive you to suicide than that extra cup of coffee. In fact, LSD probably prevents more suicides than it causes, by forcing people to look at and come to terms with those tendencies within themselves.

      Suppression is not the answer to the LSD problem. I have been informed that high school student are using less of it than before. This is because they are being educated in its proper use by older hippies, and others. There is no reason now for anyone to be ignorant of the proper procedure for taking LSD. No further problem exists. We demand that the laws against it either be thrown out, or filled in the dead-letter-law office.

      We demand, also, that all violators of the marijuana and LSD laws be release. I feel that I can speak for all of the marijuana-and-LSD-users, and for those who love them, when I accuse the Narcotics Police of committing a crime against society by imprisoning people who wish to improve their lives with psychedelic drugs.

      Mr. Ralph Booth, why don’t you ask Mr. Frank Howard what he thinks of prison as a remedy for all of society’s ills? What’s that bug ugly building at Main and Cordova supposed to be, anyway? Some sort of Laundromat, where society can stick its dirty underwear, throw some hard detergent on it, and expect it to come out spotless?

      Mr. Booth, has it ever been brought to your attention that the people who are arrested on marijuana and LDS charges are not criminals, using any definition of the term by the most shallow? They are gentle and warm people, as anyone who was at the Stanley Park Be-In would know. They love their children, and take care of each other. Nobody is harmed by them. Contrast this image with that of the Narcotic Officer, and you will wonder what happened to the concept of good-and-evil.

      It should be noted that the hippies are only a small minority of those who use marijuana and LSD. Most users look just like you. The only way to deal with this problem is to arrest on the street anybody who smiles or appears to be having a good time. When arrested, our people are invariably courteous and cooperative. One young man actually handed Mr. Snidanko his marijuana, the moment he asked for it.

      Marijuana has become the social catalyst and personal tool of young people throughout the city. People who use marijuana and LSD often experience a great feeling of love toward everyone, especially toward their friends and relatives. They begin to deal with others in an open way, without ulterior motive; and they notice beauty in their daily lives, that they had formerly been too busy to see. His is why marijuana and LSD have spread so quickly, and why they will never be stamped out: those whose lives have been enriched by these substances feel that it is their moral obligation to share this experience with their loved ones.

      To give these people two years in jail is to admit that we live in a society where love is punished. Has anyone ever stopped to compare today’s hippies with yesterday’s hoodlums? Together with the psychedelic drugs, today’s kids receive an education in kindness and understanding. If anyone would take the trouble to talk to the hippies, he would discover what a high moral code they live by.

      There is no young person in the city who has not heard of, and developed an interest in marijuana and LSD. All but the most dull have either tried these substances, or are seriously considering doing so.

      The law against LSD states that it is a crime not to inform on those who you know have taken it. To properly enforce such a law, it will be necessary to arrest every child, as well as half of the adults in the city. Throw this phony bill out, Mr. Bonner, before people realize that you no longer know what law is.

      Jail is certainly no solution to the marijuana and LSD problem. All that it can do is destroy a lot of good feelings and replace them with hardness and bitterness. We do not want to go to jail and learn a crime. We enforce our own internal law which is stricter than that of the police. We enjoy our lives so much that we don’t even want to think of the possibility of jail. A friend of mine recently told me that he would consider suicide, if he were sentenced to two years in jail. Mr. McGeer do you really believe that prison is the answer to this problem?

      It is not we who are freaked out, but society, to impose this death penalty on us. There has been a new bill proposed, to remove narcotics violations from the criminal list. This means that we will now be thrown into mental hospitals, and we will lose even the meager rights that we enjoyed when we were criminals. Does any citizen possess constitutional protection against a psychiatrist’s opinion? Are they going to give me electric shock treatments, merely because I like to smoke a bit of grass now and then? 

      The Bum Tripper's Guide was published on May 5, 1967 and was the first of Peter Hlookoff's running commentary on Vancouver's war on drugs.

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