It Was 50 Years Ago Today: The Summer of Love

Time flies when you’re having fun. Or, in the case the Baby Boomers, pretty much running the world.

This weekend marks 50 years since the famous (or infamous, in certain parts of America) Summer of Love started. By August, it had become a media sensation. Ever since, it has become part a legendary part of recent American history.

Of course, it involved marijuana. Among all the changes that have happened in the United States in the last half century, perhaps none are as amazing as the difference in opinion about marijuana. There’s no way that those who lived through 1967 could foresee the changes in cannabis culture that was coming – but the seeds were planted that year.

But before getting into that, a brief history lesson from 1967, in case Grandpa is too busy to fill you in.

Summer of Love

The “summer” of 1967 actually began earlier in the year, when counterculture enthusiasts (called “hippies”) started to gather in San Francisco, particularly in and around the Haight-Asbury neighborhood.

Those who gathered there espoused a rejection of consumer society, materialism and the conformity that had swept post-World War II America. This culminated in an event, the “Human Be-In,” at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was at this event that psychologist Timothy Leary said his famous phrase: “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

By spring break, the neighborhood was overflowing with young people. Free medical services were established and many in the neighborhood gave the kids food and place to stay. Scott McKenzie released the song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)”, written by John Phillips, and it became a rallying cry for the counterculture movement.

By the time of the Monterrey Pop Festival in California in the summer of 1967, hundreds of thousands of (mostly younger) Americans had flocked to the Bay Area. A large part of the movement was the use of marijuana. Many openly questioned why it was illegal – think of it as the early, early days of the legalization movement.

Ahead Of Their Time

What has changed the most in the 50 years since the Summer of Love was the reaction from elsewhere. The acceptance of cannabis has swept across the country. This likely is due at least in part to the Baby Boomers, the generation that led the counterculture movement, growing up and taking leadership roles across the country in business, entertainment and government.

But back then it was a more mixed bag of reactions.

Leafly gathered together a view of the pop culture moments from that summer, which included:

  • An episode of the hit TV show “Dragnet” called “The Big High” features a father turning in his daughter and son-in-law to the police for smoking marijuana. However, the episode features one character saying pot would one day be packaged and sold like liquor.
  • The Grateful Dead were arrested for marijuana possession in San Francisco in the fall of 1967, but used the event to promote marijuana’s beneficial uses.
  • The Beatles openly promoted cannabis legalization in Great Britain in the summer of 1967, calling for research into the effects of cannabis. But then again, the Beatles were always ahead of their time.

It’s been a long, strange trip from that summer (as the Grateful Dead might say) to the successful legalization movement of today, when cannabis enthusiasts now include business people choosing marijuana over wine after work.

The use of marijuana has gone mainstream and moved away from the counter-culture movement, but the marijuana will always have the Summer of Love as part of its history.

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