The chemist who spread the gospel of LSD
Nicholas Sand 1941–2017
When chemist Nicholas Sand took his first acid trip in 1964, LSD was still a legal drug. At a lakeside retreat in upstate New York, Sand sat naked by a fire and embarked on his life-altering maiden voyage. “I was floating in this immense, black space,” he recalled. “Suddenly a voice came through my body and it said, ‘Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world.’” Sand would become a legend of ’60s counterculture, manufacturing mass quantities of unusually pure LSD—most famously in tiny tablets dubbed Orange Sunshine—that was dropped at communes, in colleges, and on the front lines of the Vietnam War. This drug peddling would lead Sand to spend two decades as a fugitive and six years in prison. He emerged unrepentant, still convinced LSD could usher in “a new world of peace and love.”
Born in Brooklyn, Sand was the son of Communists, said The New York Times. His chemist father worked on the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb, but was expelled after “investigators saw him meeting with a Russian agent.” Sand studied anthropology at Brooklyn College, but taught himself chemistry after trying mescaline in 1962, and “set up a lab in his mother’s attic” to make hallucinogens. Sand later joined LSD guru Timothy Leary at a psychedelic community in Millbrook, N.Y., that called itself the Original Kleptonian Neo-American Church. He moved to the San Francisco area in 1967, and with his partner in crime, Tim Scully, “set up a perfume company as a front” for an LSD lab, said The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). “By 1969, the pair had made 10 million doses,” much of it distributed by a hippie drug cult called the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The FBI caught up with Sand; facing a long prison sentence, he fled to Canada while on bail.
Sand “spent the next 20 years on the run under an alias” but kept making LSD, said the Daily Mail (U.K.). In the mid-’90s he was finally apprehended— with, he boasted, “enough acid to dose Canada two times over.” Sand served his time, and continued to believe that humanity would reach “a new level of consciousness” through psychedelics. “That is what I have been working for all my life,” he wrote in 2001. “That is what I will continue to do until my last breath.”