Emergence contrasted with the younger, countercultural university students who

Emergence of Recreational Drugs at Towson

in the Sixties and Seventies

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The sixties and seventies were a time
of societal upheaval where the youth began a new conception of self-identity
through rebellion and acceptance of societal taboos. University students turned
to Led Zeppelin over Elvis Presley, started wearing bell-bottoms instead of wide
circle skirts, grew their hair long, and moved away from swing dance to the
more risqué disco moves like the Hustle. Paralleling with these societal
changes, is the unprecedented rise of peace and equality movements shaping a
generational divide that split the United States into two divisions. The older,
more conservative traditionalists contrasted with the younger, countercultural
university students who actively fought for freedom categorizing a generation
focused on self-actualization and liberation. Drugs arose as an outlet for
young people to experiment and enhance their ability to interact with the world.
 In the early seventies, the Nixon
administration reacted the growing drug sub-culture with a declaration on the
War on Drugs. To some who participated in the use of recreational drugs this
sparked an insurgence feeling as though “the government’s drug enforcement
apparatus was an instrument of repression and that a truly democratic society
would legalize drugs.” (Kurlansky 183) Emergence and expansion of the national
use of recreational drugs and alcohol had a profound impact on Towson State
students in the sixties and seventies shaping their daily lives and views about
the world around them in direct concurrence with the adoption of Nixon’s War on
Drugs laws.

Showcasing the start of governmental
intervention in health and advisory of United States citizens is the 1964
Surgeon General’s Report which outlined how long-term use of smoking is linked
to lung cancer. The publication garnered widespread news coverage and was the
reason that many college students and Americans in general, quit smoking. “A
Gallup Survey conducted in 1958 found that only 44 percent of Americans
believed smoking caused cancer, while 78 percent believed so by 1968.” (U.S.
National Library of Medicine) Smoking cigarettes steadily declined after this
report and provided further stigma attached to smoking cigarettes.

Federal Cigarette Labeling and
Advertising Act of 1965 required cigarette companies to put health warnings on
the carton. This was the first real push from Congress that showed a desire to
diminish the prevalence of smoking. The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of
1969 “required package warning label— Warning: The Surgeon General Has
Determined that Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your
Health.”(Legislation) Starting in 1971, cigarette companies were
prohibited from advertising on Television and Radio. (“Nixon signs

“Salem refreshes your taste,” read an
ad for Salem cigarettes in 1962 in the Towerlight. In 1978, as a public service
announcement, the American Cancer Society ran an ad in the TowerLight
announcing that If someone smokes, they smell and taste repulsive. “Non-smokers
are the best people to love. They live longer.” (American Cancer Society) This
conveys the massive shift in public attitude towards smoking by the late 1970s.
Instead of the plentiful ads that ran in the early 1960s, advocating for the
use of cigarettes, now organizations are doing just the opposite. Federal
Legislation severely limiting cigarette company’s role in the lives of
American’s was reflecting in the sharp decrease in prevalence of smoking by the
latter part pf the decade.

Widespread protests to the Vietnam
War argue that men who were not even old enough to vote were being drafted into
a war that they had no say in. Due to the rampant outrage, in 1971, Congress
ratified Amendment twenty-six of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 lowering the
right to vote from twenty-one to eighteen. The passage of this constitutional
amendment provided the framework for state legislatures to start lowering the
drinking age to eighteen in many states. In Maryland, the drinking age was twenty-one
up until 1974 when the legislature lowered the drinking age to eighteen for
beer and wine consumption and twenty-one for liquor. The lowering of the
drinking age allowed for almost the whole student body at Towson to legally
participate in drinking at bars and purchasing alcohol for consumption.
Demonstrating the change in state policy on university students is the emerging
plethora of advertisements selling beer and wine to students in The Towerlight.
This statute provided the foundation for alcoholic beverage companies to market
directly to Towson State students directly through the student newspaper. Two
ads on the same page of the Towerlight exemplify this shift in marketing
directly toward university students. The first, “Educated Beer Tastes Prefer
Beck’s Imported Beer,” (Beck’s Beer 4) appeals to the intellectual scholars
while the second, an ad for grenadine syrup, panders to the mediocre students
that did not do the best in the last semester, “learn how to make a Tequila Sunrise
(this way the semester won’t be a total loss.)” After giving the recipe, the ad
reassures the student, “Aint you glad you learned something new this semester.”
(Giroux 4)

Nixon’s declaration
of the War on Drugs in 1971 signaled a policy shift in U.S policy and outlined
how the government reacted to the rise of a drug culture. President Richard
Nixon used language in his speech to congress referring to a real war in terms
that would parallel with a real conflict with a foreign power. In his speech to
Congress, Nixon said, “America’s public enemy number one in the United States
is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage
a new, all-out offensive.”(Nixon). With the Controlled Substances Act in 1970,
the government classified drugs into five categories; schedule 1 being the most
dangerous addictive drugs with no medicinal value to schedule 5, the least dangerous.
 (FindLaw) Marijuana, LSD, and other
psychedelics are listed as Schedule 1 drugs even though there is no scientific
basis to the scheduling. Even though two years later the Shaffer Commission recommended
Marijuana should be decriminalized and lowered from Schedule 1, Nixon ignored the
report. (Martin) The report even contended that the laws hurt the public more than
the drugs themselves. He also reinforced mandatory minimums for drug
sentencing, increased federal funding for drug-control agencies, and the
creation of the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention. The Drug
Enforcement Administration is established in 1973 as a single governmental agency
to overseeing all aspects of drug use and consolidate its enforcement. (“War on
Drugs”) Locally, the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce began a TIP (Turn in
a Pusher) program to curb drug use. This anonymous program gave a cash reward
up to five hundred dollars if the tip leads to an arrest and conviction. (“County
starts anti-drug program.”) The program demonstrates how desperate laws enforcement
became to try and rid the Towson of the prevalence of drugs. Rapid
establishment of agencies, commissions, new laws restricting drug use, and
enlisting harsher punishments for those convicted of drug-related crimes did not
have a significant decrease in drug sentiment or drug use.

The plethora of liberal protest movements in the sixties and seventies
allowed for strong responses to the War on Drugs. Most protest movements had
intersections with anti-war and civil rights movements fighting under the
umbrella of progressive issues. Most movements were deep set in the use of
marijuana as a part of their day-to-day activities and protests.

In 1977, Towson State sanctioned Lee Vanderhoff and Susan Vanderhoff the
co-directors of NORML or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws as guest speakers. They spoke to Towson State Young Democrats about pot
decriminalization refusing to speak to anyone under the age of 18 and
reaffirmed their stance on not advocating the use of drugs. The Vanderhoffs
argue that the Legislatures are misinformed, and should decriminalize an ounce
or less of marijuana with a petty fine as punishment. Backing up their
argument, they reason that jail is irrational and ten million dollars of tax
payer money is being used to prosecute non-violent criminals. (Braves 4) NORML
was one of the leading groups in the United States that tried to lobby
legislatures and end the drug war through passage of bills in federal and state
legislatures. In 1978, TSU NORML was recognized as a Student Government
Association by an almost unanimous vote. (Mayne) They would rally for protests
and lobby in the Maryland State Legislature for decriminalization laws.

Another protest group, the Yippies! were famous for theatrical
demonstrations through the medium of comedy to advance the interests of the
counterculture movement. Their protests involved radical uses of allegory and
irony with a shock-value evoking gasps among conservatives. Among their most
famous theatrics is the initiation of Smoke-Ins all over the country in the
seventies as a response to anti-pot laws.

About four hundred people showed up in April of 1978 to the 1st annual
Spiro Agnew Memorial Smoke-In at Wyman Park “protesting ant-pot laws in open
defiance’s” (Whistler 9) Sponsored by the Yippies!, the protest involved music,
speeches, art, and even breast painting as Towson State Students smoked
pre-rolled Columbian joints provided free of charge by the Yippies!. The
Smoke-In demanded “an end to all marijuana laws, immediate freedom and
retribution for all imprisoned, and a weekly stash of marijuana for every man,
woman, and child in the U.S. for the next 40 years – the same number of years
that the weed has been kept illegal.” (Whistler 9) Although there was heavy
police presence with a helicopter circling Wyman Park, police followed a
no-bust strategy thus avoiding a confrontation between students and police.
During the Yippies!’ famous smoke-ins, police would often not intervene because
of the sheer presence of people. When hundreds of protesters are bunched
together, there is safety-in-numbers. (Weigant) The Yippies used exaggeration
and often created direct confrontation to advance their causes.

Spiro Agnew was Maryland’s Republican Governor ten years prior. During
the 1968 Baltimore Riots after Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, Agnew called in
the National Guard leading to mass arrests. Agnew invited about one hundred
civil rights leaders to a conference in which he pleaded with the leaders
explaining, “I call upon you to publicly repudiate, condemn and reject all
black racists.” (Agnew) Remarks made in this speech only isolated and
infuriated the very community he vowed to protect when running for
governor.  Due to Spiro T. Agnew’s law
and order stance during the riots, Agnew was handpicked by Nixon in 1968 to be
his vice president.  Under Nixon, Agnew
waged a war on “moral pollution” of rock music, books, and movies. During a
republican dinner he explained how Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and The
Beatle’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” brainwashed youth into the drug
culture combined with an unspoken nudge for censorship to curtail the rise in
the use of drugs. (Naughton) After reelection, in 1973 Agnew resigned due to
newly exposed evidence of corruption. (“Vice President Agnew resigns”) Celebrating
the “memoriam” or the end of a career, of a man who aided the efforts to halt
the counterculture movement and the rise of drugs with such an open and illegal
demonstration in the very city Agnew ran allowed for a clear response to the
anti-drug sentiment. The Yippies! clever irony, demonstrated the effective
ability to provide double meaning to protests using a disgraced public figure
to convey their frustration of Nixon’s War on Drugs.

As well as national groups getting involved with university students,
local and Towson State sanctioned organizations responded the A student group
on Towson State’s Campus, The Brotherhood of Man frequently posted articles in
the Towerlight as a group committed to a safe, peaceful drug experience. “The
Brotherhood’s services include individual, family and group counseling; drug
education, drug analysis, crisis intervention, referrals, and a speaker’s
bureau.” (Brotherhood of Man 4) Through spreading information and informing the
student body about prevalent drugs on campus, The Brotherhood of Man was able
to create knowledgeable drug users that potentially saved lives. On October 6,
1972, in The Towerlight, Roy Tawsill of the Brotherhood of Man wrote an article
titled “Dangers of Overdose.” He outlines how to identify symptoms of a
barbiturate overdose while describing how to help the person who overdosed. He
even explains how to not get caught by the police when asking authorities for
help. At the end of the article, Tawsill provides students with a number to
reach the Brotherhood of Man at 823-HELP. This number was used as a resource
for students that needed help or requested general information regarding drugs.

In Stephens Hall in 1974, the Brotherhood of Man provided a lecture on
altered states of consciousness and the psychology of psychedelic drug
experiences in an attempt to lessen the number of devastating trips for users.
(Brotherhood of Man 7) The Brotherhood provided meaningful and useful
presentations aiding students with the emergence of recreational drugs.

As a public service, the Brotherhood of Man offered free drug testing. In
the Towerlight, Roy Tawsill wrote an article outlining what the user thought
the drug was with physical characteristics, and what the real drug was after
the drug tests. One brown tablet, sold as “Chocolate Mescaline” was actually a
combination of PCP and LSD. “If you’ve got any questions about PCP or you have
some strange substance you’d like analyzed, or you just want to rap to some
people why don’t you drop by the Brotherhood of Man at 101 E. Joppa Rd. It’s
open 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night.” (“Brotherhood lists dangers of PCP”) This
service that the student group provided is a huge beneficiary to students while
fostering an environment that does not condone drug use in theory but nurtures
a campus toward less incidences of trips gone wrong.

Services provided by the Brotherhood of Man were well-known on campus.  In 1978, an article in the summer edition of
The Towerlight, describes a fictional Tom Robinson frantically searching for
the phone to call the Brotherhood of Man when finding his brother using an
unknown substance that makes his mouth crackle and pop. Instead of getting
high, the brother was using Space Dust, a crushed candy that fizzes and buzzes
when it hits saliva. (Robinson 6) This narrative about the new food craze
demonstrates the trust that students instilled in the Brotherhood of Man to aid
with fast medical care regarding drug trips and a secure source for students to
call when in trouble. Instead of calling the police or medical personnel, the
Brotherhood of Man was the most trusted source for Tom to call in an emergency.

 When new synthetic drugs became
more available and students got more curious, there was widespread
misinformation and uninformed drug users. A section of the Towerlight dedicated
to students asking a doctor medical advice, “The Doctor’s Bag,” demonstrated
the misinformed public about the drug, LSD. A worrisome fiancé asked Dr. Arnold
Werner whether using LSD and mescaline (a drug derived from peyote plant
similar to LSD) would have an effect on their children’s chromosomes. Werner
assured the student that the unfounded scientific studies that claimed these
results lacked controls and were proven to be false. Werner explains that the
riskiest aspect of LSD, is “the number of adulterants in the materials being
purchased.” (Werner 4) Also, cocaine, which gained prominence in the 70s had
the widespread belief of not being addictive with no harmful effects to the
body. “Dr. Peter Bourne, drug advisor to
Jimmy Carter and Special Assistant for Health Issues, wrote, ‘Cocaine…is
probably the most benign of illicit drugs currently in widespread use. At least
as strong a case could be made for legalizing it as for legalizing marijuana.
Short-acting…not physically addicting, and acutely pleasurable, cocaine has
found increasing favor at all socioeconomic levels.” (DEA) Health and
government officials were even under the façade that cocaine was not dangerous
physically or psychologically. Since the high of cocaine lasts less than an
hour, dangerously, users would take several hits to return to the original
high. By the late 1970s, this led to the consumption of large amounts of
cocaine leading to addiction with harmful health effects trickling down to all
classes of people. Misinformation about cocaine furthers the supposition that
the swift emergence of drug culture caused widespread distortion of a variety
of drugs and their effects on the human body.

Widening the generational gap,
self-exploration through drugs, sex, and rock music aligned with the new
acceptance of social taboos among university students. In the late sixties,
university students had a new morality and “the things youth were doing
represented nothing less than a complete alteration in the values and mores of
society.” (Kurlansky 191) There was a rise of a specific youth culture separate
from adults. This youth culture represented a complete turn around from the
conservative generations before them. Using drugs, participating in protest
movements, and listening to racy rock music contributed to this rift.

The rise of psychedelia influenced
the greater transparency among rock stars about drug use, essentially engaging in
endorsements for specific drugs. Grateful Dead concerts provided a communal
setting for people to use drugs openly without fear. Deadheads would go to
Grateful Dead shows and drop acid as a right of passage. Santana took LSD
before their famous Woodstock Performance. Jefferson Airplane’s music provided
a foundation for a trip. The music of the time provoked a stream of
consciousness that went hand-in-hand with new mind-altering rugs like LSD.  The Beatles experimented with LSD which led to
their album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A song on that album, “With
a Little Help from My Friends”, referenced getting high. Almost all of the
bands were using marijuana. Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Iggy Pop
all had albums and stage antics that were undoubtedly influenced by cocaine.
Not to mention the amount of marijuana consumed by bands of the sixties and
seventies. Bill Hicks summed up the effect of drugs on music, “if you don’t
believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight.
Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them.” The
people buying these albums, going to concerts, and idolizing the rock stars,
were university students. It is undeniable that young people resisted the
effects of drug culture. They were active participants, using these very albums
as backdrops to their drug experiences.  

As university students aged into
decades with an emphasis on peace, freedom, and equality, the paralleled
movements such as the anti-war, civil rights, and sexual revolution provided a
foundation for a rise in the aspiration to experiment with drugs openly and
freely in society. Through protest movements, influence of popular music, new
scientific evidence, Nixon’s War on Drugs, and the spread of information about
drugs through the Brotherhood of Man, the rise of recreational drug use
significantly impacted the lives of Towson State Students in the sixties and