Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Looking Back: In 1990 Timothy Leary dropped in to Eckerd College to talk about legalizing drugs

 Timothy Leary doesn't think America's drug problem could be solved with 'Just Say No.'

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

Timothy Leary doesn't think America's drug problem could be solved with 'Just Say No.' TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on October 9, 1990. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Maurice Rivenbark.


By Tom Zucco, Times Staff Writer

Monday night's debaters were as different as two people from the same planet can be. On the far left was Timothy Leary; on the far right, Guardian Angels founder and president Curtis Sliwa. The topic for the evening was the legalization of drugs and the audience was standing-room-only at Griffin Chapel on the Eckerd College campus.

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

Leary, 70, a former Harvard University psychology professor who in the 1960s led the fight for a chemically altered state of consciousness, was pro-choice on the issue. Sliwa, wearing a trademark red beret of the Guardian Angels, argued that even "soft" drugs such as marijuana should not be legalized.

Most people have only a one-sided vision of the Woodstock generation, Sliwa said. Today, as in the 1960s, inner-city poor suffer under the weight of drug addiction.

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

"If we legalize drugs," Sliwa said, "it will do to the inner city what alcohol did to the American Indians. It's a form of genocide. How can we sit idly by when a portion of the population is enslaved?

"We must consider the us in we," he said, "to be more important than the I in we."

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

From the beginning, Leary was clearly the crowd favorite, even though many of his admirers weren't even born when he coined the phrase "turn on, tune in, drop out."

Leary didn't counterattack Sliwa as much as he challenged the audience. And he noted at the outset, "It's curious to me that your college was named after a drug manufacturer."

"The real cause of neglect of the cocaine babies is the Bush administration," Leary said. "There is no prenatal care.

"The government has no business telling you, as an adult, what to do with your body or your mind. Is there anyone out there who really thinks they can look to Washington or Moscow to solve their problems?

"I'm not advocating drugs," he said. "I'm advocating T.F.Y.Q.A. _ think for yourself and question authority."

Pounding his fist on the lectern, Leary at one point turned the microphone around and faced Sliwa. "As for the suggestion that casual pot smokers should be jailed, Curtis, I got news for you. You ain't gonna do it."

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

TIMES | Maurice Rivenbark

Leary brought up the anti-drug commercial on TV that shows an egg in a frying pan.

"I got a fax from a friend that showed a plate with an egg, bacon and toast. It said, "This is your brain with bacon and toast.' I mean, that ad must have really p----- off the poultry industry and caused all sorts of psychological problems for kids who saw that commercial and then saw their moms cooking breakfast.

"Look," he added, "we are not going to solve the problem of drugs by saying "Just Say No.' We'll solve the problems by saying "Just Say Know.' "

To order reprints, license or download any image included above, please visit the Times image archive.

Contact Jeremy King at

Looking Back: In 1990 Timothy Leary dropped in to Eckerd College to talk about legalizing drugs 02/09/17 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 9:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'


    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  2. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store


    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  3. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108