Orange Sunshine

In his new book, the Weekly's Nick Schou tells the tale of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, OC's notorious 'Hippie Mafia'

Griggs and his friends weren’t just hash smugglers; they were also America’s largest LSD-distribution ring, complete with mobile laboratories that always managed to stay one step ahead of the police and federal drug agents who constantly, but with scant success, chased after them. Their exploits, beginning well before San Francisco’s so-called Summer of Love introduced the world to hippies in 1967 and stretching over the next several years, most famously included springing Leary from prison with the help of the Black Panthers and the Weathermen. They would eventually lead to the creation of a multi-agency task force that formed the first legion in America’s global war on drugs, carrying out arrests from Orange County to Oregon; Hawaii; even Kabul, Afghanistan. The raids netted dozens of suspects and sent an equal number underground, scattering around the globe in pursuit of an outlaw life that would, in some cases, last decades.

By then, Griggs and his cohorts had turned on countless young people with their own brand of cosmic, mind-expanding, highly powerful LSD: Orange Sunshine, which would find its way to Grateful Dead concerts and love-ins up and down the coast of California, and then to hippie communes and cities across the country and beyond.

Charles Manson and his followers would get high on Orange Sunshine. So would the Hells Angels and the unruly audience at the Altamont Music Festival. During a three-day happening in Laguna Beach—a riotous, apocalyptic birthday party for Jesus Christ that began on Christmas Day 1970—a cargo plane would drop a full load of gray cards over a crowd of 25,000 concertgoers in Laguna Canyon, just up the hill from Dodge City. Each card included a tab of Orange Sunshine. That year, the FBI estimated, Orange Sunshine was being manufactured by hundreds of pill presses stashed in various houses across the country, and federal drug agents traced the acid’s spread to such far-flung locales as London, Bangkok and Sydney.

At the Christmas 1970 concert in 
Laguna Beach
At the Christmas 1970 concert in Laguna Beach

Just as Leary was enticed by Griggs to join his cause, so was Jimi Hendrix, who starred in a movie that paid tribute to the hash-smuggling exploits of Griggs’ cohorts. On a windy summer day in July 1970, the world-famous musician even played a private concert for a band of Laguna Beach smugglers and their surfing pals in a cow pasture high on the slope of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot volcano on Maui. The concert took place there because several of Griggs’ foot soldiers had just escaped to Maui from the increasing heat in Dodge City on a 25-foot yacht loaded with 6,000 pounds of Mexican pot—the cultivars of which would become the legendary “Maui Wowie”—and arrived in the tropics like conquering warriors in a royal canoe.

Griggs and the rest of his crew were psychedelic warriors who had turned on with acid and tuned in to a newfound sense of spiritual purpose. Instead of dropping out of society, they created their own version of it, one that they hoped to single-handedly spread through their entire generation. Their goal: turn on the entire world. First the police and later Rolling Stone magazine would brand them the “Hippie Mafia.” They called themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The book Orange Sunshine is their story.

To read Nick Schou’s previous stories about the Brotherhood, please go to Nick will sign copies of Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World at Latitude 33 Bookshop, 311 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5403; April 10, 5 p.m.

This excerpt appeared in print as "Orange Sunshine: In 1966, a young film student met John Griggs, the man the rest of the world would come to know as the leader of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love."

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