04 May 2013

No pouches of tobacco

John Kifner, a young New York Times reporter respected by student radicals at Columbia, wrote a January 1968 article from Amherst on marijuana and students, which contained the shocking news that the town was selling a great deal of Zig-Zag cigarette paper and no pouches of tobacco. The article introduced readers to the concept of recreational drugs. These students were doing drugs not to forget their troubles, but to have fun. "Interviews with students indicated that, while many drug users appeared to be troubled, many did not." The article suggested that the drug lifestyle had been encouraged by media coverage. A high school principal in affluent suburban Westchester was quoted as saying, "There's no doubt that this thing has increased since the summer. There were articles on the East Village in Esquire, Look, and Life and this provides the image for kids."

Such articles described "college marijuana parties," although a more typical get-together would be students lying around smoking joints and reading such an article while uncontrollable giggling led to gasping, wheezing laughter. A popular way to pass a rainy day in the East Village was to get stoned and go to the St Marks Cinema, where sometimes included in the triple feature for a dollar would be the old documentary on the dangers of marijuana, Reefer Madness.

- Mark Kurlansky, 1968: The Year That Rocked The World, London, 2004, p.186-7.

[Although Mr Kurlansky may be mixing up his decades - the Wikipedia entry for Reefer Madness reckons it didn't attain renewed popularity until it was rediscovered in the Library of Congress archive by Keith Stroup in 1971]
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