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Hallucinogenic Plants (1976)

Richard Evans Schultes

"Contemporary American cannabis shoulder patches"

"Hallucinogenic plants have been featured on many postage stamps"


Ah, the 1970s, when the idea of education was huggy-kissied and mushified to the point of complete ignorance. One shining light in the darkness, however, was the Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants, welcome school library enlightenment for grade-schoolers confused by the ubiquitous leafy illustrations on t-shirts, belt buckles, and the covers of all those issues of High Times on their parents' coffee tables.

Booksellers -- usually a fairly laconic lot, at least when it comes to book descriptions -- like to break loose when it comes to this title. Some online examples:

  • Only edition, suppressed by the publisher. Indeed, how the Golden Guide series, devoted to nature books for a youthful audience, came to publish this delightful manual remains a mystery. We do know they quickly recalled it and it has become a most sought-after book.

  • Scarce book which was pulled from shelves and discontinued shortly after being issued. "Say kids, tired of looking for fossils, how about exploring the dangerous and mind-altering world of hallucinogenic plants?" Discontinued for obvious reasons.

  • The question remains -what were they thinking? A "Golden Guide" to hallucinogenic plants??? Our little Golden Guides -the ones we used as kids to look up birds and trees and mosses? Hallucinogenic plants? How many editors lost their jobs over this one? The book was promptly recalled and, as another wit has observed, is unlikely to be reissued.

  • Classic Golden Guide, best book they ever did, quickly recalled through pressure by the Moralist Minority. Proves again Leary's adage: "(hallucinogens) are known to cause psychotic reactions in people (and groups) that have never taken them."

  • One copy the thought police missed. Plants include all your favorites.

Two comments:

(1) Don't be so sure the thought police are finished yet.

(2) A thought police scenario is about a hundred times more likely now than in the seventies. According to the Golden Guide Website, the suppression theory goes against the fact that there were four printings of the softcover edition of this book, whereas nowadays everyone's reading habits are open to the peering eyes of whatever government agency cares to conduct a now-legal warrantless search.

We know the seventies were a golden age of Golden Guides, but whoever thought the seventies would seem -- by comparison --like a golden age of freedom?