Notorious LSD chemist William Leonard Pickard was freed from prison on compassionate grounds, on the 27th of July 2020. The ‘Acid King’ has been released from prison. His name does not ring a bell for many people nowadays. However, 20 years ago when Pickard and his partner Clyde Apperson were arrested, it was worldwide news that the ‘Acid King’ had been busted.
No Hope of Parole…
In 2003 Pickard received two life sentences without the hope of parole. Clyde Apperson was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment. What the pair had actually been convicted of was manufacturing large amounts of acid in an abandoned nuclear missile facility. The DEA later claimed (though many believe this to be false) that LSD circulation went down 95% in the US following Pickard and Apperson’s arrest.
An Inspiration For Walter White?
Pickard held, prior to his arrest, the position of deputy director of the Drug Policy Research Program at The University of California. A Princeton University dropout, at high school he was named ‘most intellectual’. Perhaps an inspiration for the character of Walter White, Pickard kept his lab mobile. They moved from Oregan, Colorado, New Mexico to Kansas where they were finally arrested. While in jail Pickard published a book called The Rose of Paracelsus. A semi fictional autobiography, it has since been recognised as an important piece of psychedelic literature.
Predicting The Opioid Crisis
More pertinent than this though, has been his vocal stance against the opioid fentanyl. As far back as 1996, Pickard had suggested that the use of the substance, would become epidemic. Due to this, Picard prescribed that structures should be put in place to prevent this happening. This prediction would come 22 years before the 2018 opioid crisis in the US. In 2003 Pickard testified in court about his prediction. Basing it on the research he had conducted with addicts from Boston and Moscow.
For many years supporters have protested the incarceration of Pickard. With the website freeleonardpickard.org describing him as a “…gentle soul, who is a casualty in the war on drugs“. However, it is not due to this Pickard has just been released. Picard’s liberty has been granted on compassionate grounds, the court stated. Nevertheless, he will be monitored for the next 5 years.
Mike Dupler, a friend of Pickard, informed Psymposia magazine that
“[Apperson’s, (Pickard’s collaborator)] early release has been approved by the court and [he] is currently at a pre-release or halfway house pending full release.”
Myriad Health Problems
Pickard’s approved request for reduction of sentence was due to his advanced age (74), and his myriad health problems. (Specified to be chronic kidney disease, hypertension, anemia, hypothyroidism, cataracts, posterior vitreous detachment, prostatic hyperplasia, vitamin D deficiency and pre-diabetes.) These conditions, as well as his age, also make him a high risk for contacting Covid-19. The pandemic is fast becoming a problem within the prison system. Additionally, it is his verified research into the dangers of fentanyl that means he has been looked upon positively by the courts. Perhaps it can also be suggested the changing attitude towards psychedelics has leant a hand too.
Two Decades Served
The Memorium and Order of the court states that:
“Pickard’s offenses were serious, but having spent two decades in prison he has been seriously punished. The government correctly points out that Pickard has prior drug convictions, but does not challenge the defendant’s argument (Dkt. 849, at 31-32) that the First Step Act’s change to sentences for drug crimes would substantially changed [sic] the treatment of his prior offenses.”
The court agreed that the two decades served by Pickard were sufficient for complying with the objectives of “incapacitation, deterrence, retribution, and rehabilitation”.
An Antidote To Hatred
Pickard, was part of the famous Brotherhood of Eternal Love, an organisation of LSD creators and distributors. He maintains that their mission was a pure one, motivated by love, rather than greed. Three years ago from his prison cell in Tucson he wrote;
“From my Harvard research, during which I conducted interviews with six underground chemists allegedly responsible for producing most of the earth’s LSD. It seems they view the psychedelic experience as a touchstone of cognitive evolution, in effect an antidote to hatred.”
It will be interesting to know what the ‘Acid King’ makes of the psychedelic renaissance, now he has been released.