Photo featured on inside gatefold of Hooteroll? album cover by Ron Rakow

Yep, that's Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales holding up an issue of Scientific American.

I did a double take, too, when I received a photo of the inside gatefold cover of the album Hooteroll? via e-mail from Eric Klotz, founder of Visualized. (Incidentally, Klotz was also responsible for my last album cover obsession—and the pulsar data visualization it was based on). I had to learn more. So I bought a second-hand vinyl (released in 1971, Douglas 5 record label) and CD (released in 1987, Rykodisk and Douglas Communications), and settled in for some internet research.

Cover painting by Abdul Mati

Not surprisingly, I stumbled across lots of reviews and internet conversations about the jazz–rock fusion collaboration between Wales and Garcia, including a few mentions of Scientific American. (The photo that includes the magazine cover appears on the cardboard album packaging, but not the paper CD insert). But most image conversations swirled around the back-cover photo—which appears on both formats—in which Garcia is clearly handing a joint to Wales. I decided it was a clue. Time to search the Scientific American archive for hallucinogens.

Photo featured on Hooteroll?’s back cover by Ron Rakow

I confidently typed "marijuana" into the archive keyword search field. What? Only a smattering of book reviews and passing mentions in the 1960's and early ‘70's? I was about to move on to “cannabis” as a search term, but instead I stubbornly clicked through full issue pdfs starting in 1971, scanning tables of contents for anything that felt relevant.

Bingo. December 1969. Marihuana—with an "h".


In the 1969 article, author Lester Grinspoon (at the time, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School) provides a brief history of cannabis, surveys the scientific literature and maintains:

There is now an abundance of evidence that marihuana is not an addictive drug. Cessation of its use produces no withdrawal symptoms, nor does a user feel any need to increase the dosage as he becomes accustomed to the drug…. If abuse is measured in terms of the danger to the individual and society, then it must be pointed out that although the dangers of alcoholism and even of social drinking are well established, social drinking is not considered abuse in the U.S. The dangers of the use of marihuana, on the other hand, have not yet been clearly determined…. If we are to find a rational and effective approach to the problem of the increasing use of marihuana in the U.S., we obviously need to reduce the emotionalism surrounding the subject and replace myths with facts as far as they can be determined.

The article also features several pieces from one of my favorite artists from that era of the magazine, Thomas Prentiss, including the classic botanical illustration below.

Illustration by Thomas Prentiss. In “Marihuana,” by Lester Grinspoon, Scientific American, December 1969.
Detail of illustration by Thomas Prentiss. In “Marihuana,” by Lester Grinspoon, Scientific American, December 1969.

Also inked by Thomas Prentiss: chemical compound diagrams…

Illustration by Thomas Prentiss. In “Marihuana,” by Lester Grinspoon, Scientific American, December 1969.

… and a few graphs and tables of study results, including the one featured below, based on a paper by Andrew Weil, Norman Zinberg, and Judith Nelsen, published in Science (1968).

The times were different then in many ways: the Weil–Zinberg–Nelsen experiment used marijuana that originated in Mexico, provided to the scientists by the then-Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Several years later, marijuana was classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, resulting in even stricter controls on access to the drug for research purposes. (See David Downs' article "The Science Behind the DEA's Long War on Marijuana" for more context. Forty-six years later, that Schedule I classification is subject to review and very well might change. See David Noonan’s report, published last week in, “A New Era in Medical Marijuana Research?”)

Original caption: "TEST OF COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING (called "Digit Symbol Substitution Test") was administered recently by Andrew T. Weil, Norman E. Zinberg and Judith M. Nelsen of the Boston University School of Medicine to two different groups of subjects, one group consisting of chronic users of marihuana, the other of persons experiencing the drug for the first time. A sample of the test is shown at left; the results of the study are summarized at right. On a signal from the examiner the subject was required to fill as many of the empty spaces as possible with the appropriate symbols. The code was always available to the subject during the 90-second administration of the test. The results were tabulated in terms of the change in scores from a baseline score (number correct before smoking marihuana) both 15 minutes and 90 minutes after the smoking session. On the average Weil and his colleagues found that the drug-naive group showed some impairment during the high (top right), but the performance of experienced users of marihuana showed no significant impairment and, in fact, on the higher doses revealed a slight trend toward improvement (bottom right)." (This version of the table is credited to Thomas Prentiss. In “Marihuana,” by Lester Grinspoon, Scientific American, December 1969).

Grinspoon’s analysis of marijuana regulation was, arguably, way ahead of its time,

In short, the anxiety and sense of helplessness generated by the dangers of our time may be focused in some degree on marihuana, driving some people to protective immersion in the drug and arousing others to a crusade against it. Although either of these responses may have some adaptive value for the individual psyche, neither contributes toward the development of a more secure world.

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I have no hard evidence that this is indeed the issue displayed on the Hooteroll? album cover. But I'd bet my growing collection of Scientific American–related pop culture artifacts on it, especially after hearing what Howard Wales told us.

Photo featured on cover by Victor E. Krantz, Smithsonian Institution

A couple of weeks ago, Scientific American editorial intern Jordana Cepelewicz talked with Wales and his friend and publicist Robison Godlove about the Hooteroll? photo session.

Although Wales didn’t definitively confirm that the December 1969 issue was involved—“there’s a good chance that is the issue,” he says—he did recall the gathering at his place in Lagunitas. “Jerry and I had a copy of Scientific American in my house,” Wales says. “He looked at me and I looked at him and we started smiling, we thought it was really cool. We enjoyed the magazine, we’d been fans of the magazine for years. And then Ron Rakow came over and said: ‘Oh, why don’t you just hold that in your hand and I’ll take the picture?’ Before that we had, of course, shared a number of refreshments.”

Of course.

“There are two pictures [on the album],” Godlove added. “One is sharing a marijuana joint. At that time, the country was very anti-marijuana and very anti–what was going on in San Francisco, so it took a lot of guts to choose a picture of them sharing a joint—there were serious consequences for something like that.” And how did the magazine get involved? “Howard and Jerry were aware of Scientific American,” Godlove says. “They were sharing this with the country after sharing cannabis; the satisfaction of having intellectual backup. It wasn’t just getting high in San Francisco and playing music. It was something entirely different.”

Larger issues aside, I like to imagine that Wales and Garcia might’ve been sharing a smile over this line in the Grinspoon article—“Many jazz musicians have said they perform better under the influence of marihuana, but this has not been objectively confirmed.”—and then released Hooteroll? as their mic drop.