Launch of Heads Together: Weed and the Underground Press Syndicate

Monday 05 Jun 2023 from 7:30pm to 9pm

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Launch of Heads Together: Weed and the Underground Press Syndicate, 1965-1973 (Patrick Frey Publishing, 2023) with author David Jacob Kramer.

A vast graphic herbarium of marijuana advertisements from the major underground magazines of the 1960s and 1970s.

The youth uprising, now simply called the '60s, was fuelled by one of the biggest booms in publishing history. The Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) began as a confederation of five newspapers in 1966, and within a few years had federated more than 500 titles worldwide, reaching millions of readers. They 'spread like weeds', said Tom Forcade, UPS director, weed merchant and future founder of High Times. The metaphor was apt: the UPS drove the legalization movement, and weed became its totem.
Weed was so widespread that it became a useful pretext for government agencies to crack down on the UPS. Weed became the emblem of activist groups, and added a touch of style to UPS headlines. It invaded the pages of the UPS, with holes in the text filled with occasional marijuana-inspired illustrations.

Heads Together collects these drawings, highlighting lesser-known names in the stoner art canon, and many who were not names at all, as no signatures were attached. It also compiles weed growing guides from the era, which were treated as contraband by the CIA. Activist psychedelic rolling papers are also featured.

As the legalisation of marijuana progresses rapidly in the United States and elsewhere, its once sulphurous status takes on a strange twist. The profiteers of today's pot market do not reflect those who fought for legalization, nor the black and Latino populations who were strategically criminalized for pot long before the hippies were targeted, and long after.

The graphic output collected in this book reflects a time when pot was smoked with optimism, as something potentially good for society and people, capable of activating a profound transformation in the face of corrupt and powerful forces.
David Jacob Kramer is a writer based in Los Angeles.

He founded Family Bookstore (2007-2021), a space dedicated to artists' books, zines, performances and readings. His writing has appeared in various magazines and artist monographs.