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Review: "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love"

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #641)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: Nicholas Schou, "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World" (2010, St. Martin's Press, 305 pp., $24.99 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

As a teenager in remote South Dakota in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had friends who traveled to Southern California and returned bearing strange gifts indeed: Orange Sunshine brand LSD, hash oil called "Number 1," Thai sticks. I had no clue at the time I was becoming a participant in a messianic drug-selling venture that spanned the world from its headquarters in Laguna Beach, but it turns out I was. That stuff my friends brought back from California was all thanks to the efforts of a group of Orange County surf bums and trouble-prone working class kids who took acid, got religion, and set out to change the world.

They ended up calling themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and "Orange Sunshine" is their story. And what a story it is! Led by a charismatic Laguna Beach street-fighter and troublemaker turned acid-washed mystic named John Griggs (who later died after taking a massive dose of synthetic psilocybin), the Brotherhood adopted as its mission the turning-on of the whole planet. What is shocking is how far they came in achieving their goal.

By the time the Brotherhood went down in flames in a massive federal bust in 1972, it had manufactured and distributed untold millions of doses of its trademark Orange Sunshine, it had pioneered the smuggling of Afghan hashish to the US, it had smuggled massive amounts of Mexican weed into the US, it provided a strong impetus for the formation of the DEA, and, strangely enough, it had made possible Maui Wowie and the Hawaiian pot boom of the 1970s.

The story of Maui Wowie is worth recounting, given that it demonstrates the scope of the Brotherhood's operations and the avidity with which its members went about their business. Wanting to finance another massive Afghan hash deal, Brotherhood members bought a boatload of Mexican weed and took it to Hawaii to sell before heading on to Afghanistan for the second part of the deal. Trapped in an endless, drug-fueled party on Maui, the Brotherhood never completed that deal, but someone there crossbred the Mexican weed with some Afghan pot plants and -- voila! -- Maui Wowie was born, and so was the Hawaiian pot industry.

Relying on interviews with Brotherhood members and the police who chased them, as well as court and newspaper records, OC Weekly writer Nicholos Schou spent four years tracking down the story of the legendary group and telling it in a rollicking, page-turning fashion. In so doing, he also opens a window on the beginnings of the acid era and the cultural turmoil of the late 1960s.

What jumps out at contemporary readers is the naivete and innocence of the time. Griggs and the other Brotherhood members really believed that LSD could change the world -- it certainly changed their world -- and set out with missionary zeal to make it so. Yes, there was money to be made, but for the idealistic Brotherhood, money was not an end, but a means. In fact, the Brotherhood bragged that it had knocked the bottom out of the Southern California hash market intentionally, because prices were too high.

Of course, idealistic zeal could hardly compete with cash, and before long, the Brotherhood and its members were acting like any other dope dealers, more interested in the bottom line than in blowing minds. Such a trajectory seems preordained today, but at the time, the holiness of LSD was supposed to lead us past such materialistic traps. That it didn't hardly seems surprising now, and I suppose that shows how far we've fallen.

Idealistic zeal also had a hard time dealing with pressure and betrayal. While Brotherhood members stayed remarkably loyal for years, one of them eventually cracked under police pressure (and because of disaffection with a group that had drifted from its noble goals), allowing the feds to roll up their operation in 1972. And Timothy Leary, the apostle of acid, whom the Brotherhood worshipped and who stayed with the Brotherhood in Laguna Beach, also turned on it, spilling the beans to the feds after being arrested in Afghanistan. What made Leary's betrayal sting even more painfully was the fact that the Brotherhood had financed the successful Weatherman/Black Panther effort to break Leary out of prison after he had been busted in Laguna Beach.

"Orange Sunshine" is full of great stories, but my favorite has to be the Laguna Beach Christmas party in 1970, when 25,000 hippies headed for Laguna Canyon for a Woodstock-style event. On Christmas day, a cargo plane hired by the Brotherhood flew over the gathering and bombed the crowd with several tens of thousands of hits of Orange Sunshine. Now, that's what I call a party!

But all parties must come to an end, and that was true for the Brotherhood as well, although, despite bold pronouncements from the feds that they had broken the group in 1972, individual members of the Brotherhood kept at their dope-dealing trade for years afterwards. All in all, "Orange Sunshine" is an eminently readable trip down memory lane to the beginning of the contemporary drug culture and a fascinating look at how a small group of high-minded kids ended up changing the world.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Shoreline (not verified)

Great article, and informative. I recall Orange Sunshine well, and it certainly made an impression on my life. Although the intensity is gone, the memories of some of the things I saw and became understanding of, is still there. It's a shame more people have not experienced it.

Fri, 07/23/2010 - 3:34pm Permalink
GanjaSanta (not verified)

Those were the days my friends...I thought they'd never end!

Great article!!! Very excited to read this! Brought back so many great memories,....Blue Cheer and those little pillows of 100 and a half hits of Window Pane from Sandoz Labs! And these were all 1000 mic hits far more than the 100 mic doses that are going around today!!

Thanks for the memories Phillip!

Fri, 07/23/2010 - 4:44pm Permalink
dogbreth (not verified)

In reply to by GanjaSanta (not verified)

Find whats clean and decent -

and take six.


Would be preferable if it were still as strong as previously, but I guess "marketers" decided that they didn't want kids doing as many 'stupid' things.  Either altruism or greed, like to think it's a twisted form of alturism...

Thu, 07/29/2010 - 3:20pm Permalink
auntie social (not verified)

this kool Aid is for kittens and this Kool Aid is for tigers. Kudos to the Brotherhood for bringing the High Life to the unintiated.

What really happened to the Brotherhood? Were they offered the choice between the Penitenterary and the Cemetary and forced to punk out to CIA backed foreign gangsters...?

Fri, 07/23/2010 - 5:23pm Permalink

I lived in Orange County, and went shopping at the 135 or 150 house on Woodland Drive two or three times a week. After Laguna's PD officers Babcock and Percell get the Federal Nsarcotics Agency to take their eyes off of Haight, it all came apart.

Years later Bobby (Budda was arrested in Tahoe for unlawfu flight, several more were arrested in a home in Monarch Bay for cocaine with intent to sell.

The first generation members had "Peace in Oregon", they bought up land in southern Oregon. I wish I could remember where it is.

La Mirada Jim.

Fri, 07/23/2010 - 9:12pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.CanadaPurple Owsley and orange sunshine,that takes me back.We used to get acid on a sugar cube when I first started taking LSD.I ran into a little pink tab once that was supposed to be really good acid.Turned out to be STP and I was up for three days watching the walls melt the grass was blue,red and green ribbons,really heavy stuff.It's too bad we were just kids out for a good time.I think we took LSD every day all the summer of 67 or maybe 68,that was a long time back.What I meant to say was that LSD can and should be a profound experience and using it as a party drug is both a waste and dangerous.Back in the day there were people who went around fucking with peoples heads.Once you are experienced,have you ever been experienced?Well I have.Sorry about that,Hendrix was a god back then.The best way to do acid is with a few really good friends and sit around and discuss the cosmos.We never did that.It took a trip to the B.C.penitentiary to do that and we got called in from the yard way too soon.Definition of waste,60's style,dropping then smoking pot all night.Those were good times.the Gastown riots where the Mayor at the time,terrible Tom Campbell as I recall,just received an order of spanking new riot gear and wasn't gonna let a chance like a be-in crowd of hippies get away.Same story at English Bay.I got arrested at that one for losing it watching the cops butt end girls I knew.Mostly good times.We had a huge party at our place every night,all summer.The police were actually pretty cool about that.After all it was the 60's.

Sat, 07/24/2010 - 7:09pm Permalink
Carl (not verified)

No more time to tell how
This is the season of what
Now is the time of returning
With thought jewels polished and gleaming
Now is the time past believing
The child has relinquished the reign
Now is the test of the boomerang
Tossed in the night of redeeming

Mon, 07/26/2010 - 7:26pm Permalink
Big D. (not verified)

Orange Sunshine was synthesized and put out to the ignorant public by none other than our dearly beloved C.I.A. It was a mind control experiment. Don't take my word for it. Research will lead you there. Start by googling "Laurel Canyon" and the journalistic investigation about the origins of the "hippie" movement. It was all a psy-ops invention. 

Fri, 10/22/2010 - 10:49pm Permalink
SDguy (not verified)

Santa Cruz is where the :Aquarian Temple" is located. :Bobby is a reverend now and pro GREEN...ganja...and is involved with a band. Still Rockin'     Reeferman blues band I think                      they are on Myspace...very cool songs ..............I believe Phillip attempted to arange to make a film documentary...just recently.....hmmm.

Bobby is also the "Aquarian Temple Bel" ID on the web site


All the best,  

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 10:04pm Permalink

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