by Krystle Cole - 3/2/2008
I receive large numbers of e-mails from people asking me questions about all sorts of different topics. I will share the answers to this particular e-mail because many people are interested in the details of the Pickard LSD bust. If you don’t know about this case by name, it was the largest LSD lab ever busted in the United States. Pickard and Skinner had the lab in a missile silo in Kansas. When it was busted by the DEA (with Skinner as their primary informant), it was reported to have been producing 90% of the world’s supply. Jacob asked me the following questions:
J: First, I am curious as to your opinion regarding the legitimacy of the Pickard case. From reading your post on the neurosoup forum regarding it, as well as the description on your neurosoup bio, you quite clearly admit to having been associated with these men and having consumed the “fruits of their labor”. My question mainly has to do with your view on Pickard’s having (in Shulgin’s words) “pulled a Leary”, ie sacrificing his reputation and credibility in order to make the psychedelic experience more widely known. Though he was a well respected chemist and policy analyst, he also had a record dating back decades for false identity, concealed weapons, LSD manufacture, forgery, etc. I have no fundamental objection to any of these charges per say (except the concealed weapons charge…you yourself even said you oppose all violence), but it’s hard to argue he went about his business in the proper manner when so much evidence opposes his account. You even admitted to sampling his drugs. His defense was that he was not operating a lab, though he clearly was (this should not be a crime, yada yada) yet even you say he was.
K: To clarify, I will refer to Pickard by his middle name, which is Leonard; I will also refer to Skinner by his middle name, which is Todd. They always went by their middle names, or the first initials of their middle names, so any eavesdroppers or acquaintances would be confused about their identities. In my opinion Leonard and Todd both were involved in the LSD lab. However, it is difficult to be able to pinpoint the level of either of their involvement. This is because you can’t tell when they are lying or when they are telling the truth. I will tell you what I know, and then you can draw conclusions for yourself. Here are the conflicting stories:
- Leonard officially contends that he was basically framed by Todd and that he had no part in the lab. (I believe that he was involved to some extent in the lab; he’s saying this to defend himself.)
- Todd told me different stories at different times. Right after the bust occurred, he said that he was the head of security for the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. His duties were to find and protect the locations of lab; and to figure out ways to launder the millions of dollars that they made off of the sale of each kilo of LSD. (I believe this statement is partially true. I saw evidence of him being in charge of both duties, yet I thought he could have been more involved. At that time he was trying to position himself so that he appeared to have less involvement then he really did.) Later on he revealed to me that the lab was his and that he and Leonard shared it. He explained to me that Leonard put out the type of crystalline LSD called lavender, which was low quality, turned out in mass production, and sold to the masses. He claimed to put out smaller batches of very pure, high quality LSD that was given away for free, called white fluff. He also claimed to synthesize batches of DMT and other designer tryptamines that were given away for free.
- Another part of the story was filled in for me when I interviewed a person fairly high up in their distribution network. According to this person, who will remain anonymous, Todd and Leonard were introduced because neither of them could get the synthesis right when they tried to make it by themselves. They were introduced so that they could work together to come up with a suitable product. (I always question the validity of the word on the street. However, in this situation I lend it some credibility. I remember one time when Todd told me that each chemist knows their part of the synthesis, this way they can work in the lab in shifts. It also keeps them secure in their position within the organization. This statement seems to support this account of how and why they were introduced.)
J: Second, with regards to Skinner, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain knew that he was the “bad apple” in this whole situation. Pickard was a policy wonk/respected chemist. Skinner kidnapped, tortured, gave shitty drugs, etc. I’ve read your affidavit and stuff. I have no protest or criticism with your handling of that situation. My only question is WHY a mostly decent person like Pickard would even share the same room as Skinner? If it was not known until later, fine, but again it begs the question, was Pickard so legit in the first place? I only say this because, I look at someone like Owsley or Nick Sand or Tim Scully or even Casey Hardison. They all made LSD, admitted to doing so, and never dealt with shady characters or committed any significant “crimes” other than that. What was different about Pickard?
K: I don’t want to bash Leonard here, yet I will try to answer your question in the most respectful way towards him possible. I don’t believe Leonard is a “bad apple” like Todd; however he wasn’t an innocent either. Leonard was not a saint back then; he had flaws, like we all do. He and Todd had a shady past of working with the government before they met (Leonard had done work for/had connections within the CIA and the DEA; Todd had done work for/had connections within the DEA, FBI, DOD, and IRS). This caused them to have a lot in common. I think that, by partnering up, they both thought that they could gain a lot by being able to exploit each other’s government connections and provide a broader shield against getting busted. Plus, if Leonard was in charge, he would have needed smart, cunning, and experienced people to work with; Todd was extremely intelligent and very good at conning people into believing he was something that he really wasn’t.
J: You have said yourself that you oppose violence, that you believe money spent on entheogens should not reach the hands of shady dealers, that we should purify ourselves from any evil/money-grubbing sources of entheogens, etc. Where does Skinner fit in all this? Where does Pickard fit in all this?
K: Todd was the one that introduced me to the idea that entheogens should not be sold. He insisted upon never selling an entheogen; he would only give them away for free. I’m sure this creates more questions in your mind, like how did he have so much of the money from the profit of the sale of LSD? He said that Leonard sold the LSD and he got a cut from laundering the money, this way his conscience was clean. (This was a standard practice of Todd’s, to weasel around an ethical issue in this way.) He would also sell entactogens; he didn’t believe that they were spiritual in the same way as entheogens.
One time, while I spoke to Leonard over the phone while he was in prison awaiting appeal, I mentioned the idea to him that entheogens should not be sold. He said to me that the concept sounded nice but it wasn’t possible to put it into action. He said that there are too many inherent costs to ever be able to give it away for free.
*For more information on the Pickard Case and my life after the bust check out my books Lysergic: 2nd Edition and After the Trip: Thoughts on Entheogens, Spirituality, and Daily Life. Also, make sure to read the official court transcripts for more details about the case.