Richmond Mayor Tom Butt Photo: Robert Durell/CALmatters/ Background:  davidzydd / Freepik
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt (Photo: Robert Durell/CALmatters/ Background: davidzydd / Freepik )

Richmond Mayor on Quest to Find Location of Owsley's LSD Lab

Richmond Mayor on Quest to Find Location of Owsley's LSD Lab

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Richmond Mayor Tom Butt would probably never be mistaken for Indiana Jones, even if he donned the signature fedora and leather jacket. But for months he's been on a quest for a Bay Area "holy grail" that's less biblical and more chemical: the laboratory where Grateful Dead acolyte Owsley "Bear" Stanley made LSD that "expanded the minds" of tens of thousands during the Summer of Love.

In a lengthy, in-depth post on his official website, Butt explains that he wants to officially locate the house in Point Richmond where Stanley and his lab partners -- Tim Scully, Melissa Cargill and Don Douglas -- manufactured hundreds of thousands of tabs of LSD that they distributed to those wanting to "turn on" back in 1966. An avowed history buff who says he never used the drug, Butt plans to declare the spot a historical landmark.

You know how the saying goes: "If you can remember it, you weren't there" -- and Butt's problem is that no one remembers exactly where the former LSD lab was, not even the people that lived there.

"After all, they were taking a lot of acid," Butt told the East Bay Times back in December.

During the summer of 1966, Stanley, by then the Grateful Dead's pioneering sound engineer, set up an LSD lab in the basement of a rental house near the Chevron Refinery. Before the drug became illegal in October of that year, Stanley and his partners reportedly synthesized LSD that was 99 percent pure, which they called "White Lightning." At the Human Be-In in January of 1967, Stanley reportedly gave out between 10,000 and 30,000 hits of the Richmond-made LSD.

The drug became illegal on Oct. 6, 1966, and Douglas and Scully headed to Denver to set up another lab, this one across the street from the Denver Zoo. Stanley came to Denver later and was arrested in 1967 for manufacturing the drug. He spent two years in prison for the charges but was later . He died in 2011.


Butt learned about Stanley's connections to Richmond in the biography published early last year, Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley, which inspired him to hunt down the spot.

"You know, I've got actually some old home movies. I've got slides of the neighborhood, assessor records. I've looked at historic maps, historic aerial photos," Butt told KPIX in a special report.

Since, he's tracked down enough documents to narrow the possible location to three blocks. There are three houses that he and Scully believe could be the former lab site, but two of the homes have been completely remodeled, and the third was torn down decades ago.

Still, Butt is determined to locate the drug lab and make it an official historical landmark.

"That was my original idea. If I could find it, [to] put up a bronze plaque with a dedication ceremony and invite all the characters from those days," Butt told KPIX.

Now that sounds like a party.

Follow Mayor's Butt's progress on his E-Forum page, and watch this KPIX report to learn more about Butt's quest to find Stanley's former lab.