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Here Comes the Sun: A Brief History of LSD “Orange Sunshine”

In the late 1960s, a small group of hippies embarked on a mission to produce enough LSD to hopefully turn on the entire world. They chose a small farm house in a town called Windsor just 60 miles north of San Francisco in the Sonoma Valley to set up their clandestine lab. Within a few months this special place was able to produce roughly 3 pounds of LSD, or equivalent of 4.5 million hits. It became one of the iconic drugs of the late 1960s, nicknamed “Orange Sunshine” because of the orange-coloured barrel-shaped pill form that it came in. It produced such a powerful psychedelic trip that even Timothy Leary himself proclaimed it the finest acid in all the land.  

Part of this small team hoping to change the world was Tim Scully, a University of Berkley drop out who had majored in physics. When Scully first took acid in 1965 he felt as though he had become one with god and all of earth’s living creatures. He started hanging out with the Grateful Dead and helping out as one of their sound engineers with fellow LSD enthusiast Owsley Stanley who had already been crowned “The King of LSD” for the purity of his product he had already begun to produce. Owsley took Scully under his wing as an apprentice and together they cranked out 300,000 doses of “White Lightning” LSD. Sadly by October of 1966, LSD became illegal in the state of California so Stanley and Scully moved their lab to Denver. The following year, Scully was introduced to another underground chemist in the scene named Nick Sand, who would become part of this plot to supply acid to the world. Nick had been turned onto LSD at the Millbrook, an upstate New York farm and experimental community frequented by Timothy Leary. After a series of unfortunate events led to the closing of the Denver Lab, Sand agreed to finance a new lab for Scully if he would teach him the LSD manufacturing process. A deal was struck with the conditions that the LSD would be distributed through The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The Brotherhood was a group of California surfers who evolved into a worldwide drug distribution network. 

Tim Scully

Scully and Sand chose a secluded farmhouse obscured by trees in Windsor to set up their lab. They purchased the house using an intermediary under the rouse that a physics professor wanted to set up photography and darkroom facility in the house. They set to work right away as they feared the raw materials needed to make LSD would soon become hard to procure. LSD is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is produced by the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It can also be synthesized in a lab if need be. The LSD that was made in Windsor came from one pound of lysergic acid that had originally been made in Italy, but had been purchased in London by Scully. They figured they needed to make roughly 720 million doses of LSD to turn on the world to anyone willing to try it. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love helped spread their Orange Sunshine around the United States, Europe, India, and even as far as American Soldiers in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the law caught up with Scully and Sand before they were able to realize their full vision. Scully was arrested at the Napa Airport in May 1969 on charges stemming from the previous lab in Denver that had been shut down. In 1974, Scully was sentenced to 20 years in prison for LSD manufacturing and distribution, and Sand got 15 years. Luckily for Scully, he was released on an appeal bond partway through his prison term and was able to get his sentence cut in half and was released on parole just 3.5 years later from prison. He had earned a Ph.D. in Psychology while in prison and vowed never to return to manufacturing LSD. Afterwards, he went on to form Mendocino Micro Computers and give lectures at the Esalen Institute and the University of California. Sand on the other hand, had different plans and while out on appeal bolted from the law and spent the next 20 years of his life on the run. Sand spent time in India with the Guru Rajneesh before finding his way to British Columbia, Canada where he began to manufacture LSD again. He was eventually arrested again in 1996. Refusing to cooperate with the police, it took the authorities two months to determine Sand’s real identity. They found approximately 430,000 doses of LSD on Sand at the time of his arrest. In 1998 he pled guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in an American prison. He was paroled in 2001. Sand died in his sleep of a heart condition in 2017 at the age of 75. 

Nick Sand

While Scully and Sand never reached their goal of turning on the entire world to LSD the lasting impact of their world on society and culture as a whole is undeniable. If you would like to learn more about “Orange Sunshine” and it’s creators Tim Scully and Nick Sand I recommend checking out the 2015 documentary The Sunshine Makers

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