Today marks the 50 year anniversary of when the Beatles advocated for legal weed. That’s right, you read that correctly: on July 24, 1967, the Beatles were part of a long list of British celebrities and notable personalities that went public with their support of decriminalizing cannabis in the United Kingdom.
So what’s the story behind this epic championing from one of the biggest bands in music history?
Weed: “The Least Harmful of Pleasure-Giving Drugs”
The band helped take out a full-page advertisement to in the London Times to argue the positive effects of cannabis—well, sort of. Members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were one of many signors for a petition printed in the paper that was headed by “Britain’s best and brightest,” according to the site Ultimate Classic Rock. The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein also signed the call-to-arms.
So what spurred this display of advocacy on the part of the Beatles and others? The same thing that prompts it today: the fight for decriminalization and legalization. The ad itself was taken out in response to the arrest of photographer and International Times founder John Hopkins. Subsequently, Hopkins was convicted of cannabis possession and sentenced to nine months in prison. Enter The London Times ad in support of Hopkins.
Calling weed “the least harmful of pleasure-giving drugs” and “far less harmful than alcohol,” the ad also posited that a diverse array of people smoke pot—not just those who fit the stoner stereotype. (It’s something we’re still trying to do now, unfortunately.)
“Cannabis smoking is widespread in the universities, and the custom has been taken up by writers, teachers, doctors, businessmen, musicians, scientists and priests,” the ad concluded. “Such persons do not fit the stereotype of the unemployed criminal dope fiend.”
In reality, the Beatles did much more than signing a petition for the world to see. According to sources, singer McCartney actually footed the bill. Badass.
Final Hit: The Beatles Advocated for Legal Weed
In the end, the advert wasn’t necessarily taken well by the public at large, but it did apparently open up a discourse on the topic of cannabis legalization. The petition ultimately had a ripple effect. Over the years, maximum penalization for possession has decreased from 10 years to five.
Now that’s rock n’ roll, baby.