Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann may have invented LSD in the 1930s, and Timothy Leary was clearly its most prominent frontman in the 1960s. But it was a self-taught chemist and obscure-by-choice figure named Nicholas Sand who was the true wizard behind the curtain, the man who launched tens of millions of acid trips across generations by producing a version known as ”Orange Sunshine.”When it first hit the streets of San Francisco after the Summer of Love in 1967, it was quickly hailed as the finest version of the mind-altering drug ever created.
Sand, who would go on to produce tens of millions of doses over much of the next 50 years, died April 24 at his home in the Northern California community of Lagunitas, the Marin County coroner’s office confirmed Tuesday. He was 75 and had spoken just the day before at a ”Psychedelic Science Conference” in Oakland, where the documentary film ”The Sunshine Makers” was screened.”Nick had commented to some friends afterward that it was like the best weekend of his life, and then he went home and died in his sleep. So I guess he went out on top,” said longtime friend Lorenzo Hagerty, host of the internet program ”The Psychedelic Podcast.”
Born May 10, 1941, Sand was the son of prominent chemist Clarence Hiskey, who had worked on the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb before authorities caught him spying for the Soviet Union. After Hiskey’s wife divorced him, she restored her maiden name and gave it to her son. Nicholas Francis Sand would go on to earn a degree in anthropology and sociology from Brooklyn College in 1966, but by then he had already begun to chart a different career path.
Two years before, when LSD was still legal, the longtime devotee of yoga had sat naked in the lotus position in front of a roaring fire at a farmhouse in upstate New York and taken his first hit of LSD.”I was floating in this immense black space,” he would recall years later. ”I said, `What am I doing here?’ And suddenly a voice came through my body, and it said, `Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world.’ ” ”If we could turn on everyone in the world,” he added, ”then maybe we’d have a new world of peace and love.”
Sand had been invited to that farmhouse by former Harvard University instructor Richard Alpert, who would later become known as psychedelic guru Baba Ram Dass. Alpert’s former Harvard colleague Timothy Leary had formed the League for Spiritual Discovery there. Leary soon made Sand, who had been producing the milder psychedelic DMT in his mother’s attic, the league’s alchemist. Within a year Sand’s reputation had spread to San Francisco, where another self-taught chemist, Owsley Stanley, had already produced millions of doses.
Stanley introduced Sand to yet another chemist, Tim Scully, and together they began producing Orange Sunshine. They had made about four million hits when they were busted.Sentenced to prison, Sand vanished into Canada, living on the run for nearly 20 years while continuing to manufacture LSD.He claimed to have distributed the drug to U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, given it to jail inmates, even gotten it to India after becoming a follower of the guru Shree Rajneesh. When authorities raided his Canadian lab in 1996 he boasted they seized enough to turn on every Canadian twice.
Sand was imprisoned for three years and sentenced to a halfway house for four more. Returning home unapologetic, he told National Geographic in 2009 that he had produced about 140 million doses of LSD. It was a claim no one disputed.”He was dedicated to the proposal that psychedelics, when used properly, could really change the world,” his friend, Hagerty, told The Associated Press. ”He really believed in what he was doing and of course he paid the price.”Sand is survived by his partner, Gina ”Usha” Raetze. Details on other survivors were not immediately available.