The Grateful Dead's Departure Bid 'Fare Thee Well' to LSD Era

By McCarton Ackerman 07/13/15

Though there was probably an uptick in Chicago during the Fourth of July weekend.

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The Grateful Dead performed to 210,000 people last weekend for their three farewell shows at Soldier Field in Chicago, but their final concert back in 1995 was what marked the end of an era for both their music and LSD use.

After the band’s final show in July 1995, DEA statistics show that LSD use drastically declined and hasn’t ever fully bounced back. Dead shows served at one point as a means to bring acid users and their dealers together, but the removal of that meeting point led to an overall drop in use.

“Phish picked up part of The Dead’s fanbase—and presumably vestiges of the LSD delivery system,” wrote Ryan Grim for Slate in 2004. “At the end of 2000, Phish stopped touring as well, and perhaps not coincidentally, [reported LSD use] began to plummet.”

LSD-related emergency room visits across the U.S. were at around 5,000 in 1999, but that number dropped to 900 in 2002 and hasn’t come close to reaching the numbers from that year. A lack of available ergot alkaloid, a key ingredient in LSD, has also led to a major shortage in production of the drug.

Many Grateful Dead fans continue to be marijuana enthusiasts, of course, but relaxed possession laws throughout Illinois led to minimal crackdowns during the Chicago shows. Despite what the Chicago Sun-Times referred to as “a pungent fog of marijuana smoke” throughout the stadium, only three people were arrested for possession of pot during the entire weekend. Although this was partly due to police tending to gun violence in the city over the weekend. The Chicago Police Department admitted that possession arrests simply aren’t a priority for them.

“While in most cases cannabis possession is a ticketable offense, as residents would expect, CPD’s primary focus was on fighting violent crime and addressing the illegal guns that threaten our communities,” said Anthony Guglielmi, communications director for the Chicago Police Department.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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